Breaking the Data “Slicing and Dicing” Fever

We’ve noticed that HR leaders have a fever for slicing and dicing employee survey data. This approach can make a fever turn into the full-blown flu because (1) slicing and dicing probably means there isn’t a strategy and (2) slicing and dicing end up making important decisions based on nothing. Don’t feed the fever! Let us tell you why.

Spinning in Circles

Does your boss ask you to find interesting nuances in data (AKA slice and dice) or does he/she ask, “Did what we find have anything to do with driving business outcomes?” Since we’re guessing it’s the latter, don’t slice and dice. Otherwise, you’re trying to answer questions like, “Wouldn’t it be interesting … if nurses over the age of 30 were more engaged than nurses under the age of 30?” That might be interesting, but what does it have to do with driving outcomes? You also might find that Hispanic women between the ages of 40 and 42 scored the lowest on engagement—but what are you going to do with that data? Finally, one leader may go down one rabbit hole and find something unique and another leader may go down a different rabbit hole and find something unique. Then what?

Woozy Decision Making

It’s scary but slicing and dicing survey data really just stereotypes employees into buckets that may have nothing to do with improving the work environment. Using the example above, if Hispanic women between the ages of 40 and 42 truly are low on engagement—what are you going to do with that information? Round up all of these people into a room and do a focus group? Create a specific action plan for anyone who fits this description? What does their race and age have to do with their engagement level? Slicing and dicing does not help you understand the why of your results. One day a CEO will ask a data scientist: “So, you sliced and diced all of our data … how much money did we make because of it?”

Our prescription? Develop an employee survey tied to business outcomes, and then ensure you have managers and employees put action plans in place.

For more tips on how to tell a compelling story (i.e., instead of slicing & dicing data) without overwhelming the audience with technicality, join us for our HR Analytics – Telling the Story webinar on April 26 at 1:00pm. It’s the third in our HR Analytics Learning series. Register here.