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FOSTER: You two seem to come from pretty large companies. We’re smaller, about 180 people, and we do the basics—attrition, overtime, head count—and that is about it. But that is mainly because we do not have robust software. We do not have the resources to track that. It would require a million different spreadsheets. So how does someone from a company of my size utilize that in a better way?
SORENSON: Even with the databases we have—we use Oracle for almost everything—you still are doing the same thing. It’s workbook after workbook of Excel spreadsheets. You can still do it and it should actually be easier for you. When you see anything, expand it and roll it over 12 months and see if it’s a trend. If it’s attrition, start to track why they leave.
ROUX: We are only half your size or less than that, and so for me it’s highly manual. Excel is my best friend. I’ve taken a slightly different approach—I don’t have the HR dashboard, but I’ve incorporated it into the budgeting process. So I’m responsible, from a financial side as well, to produce the budgets and the review of those budgets with our department heads every month. That’s where all my people live.
And I’m doing what you are doing. I’m identifying trends. We’re small enough that I actually know every single person. So I have a pretty good sense of what is going on in every group. And the monthly budget review meetings are a time for us to talk about that. We can look at history, and I’ve built indexes so I can see what is happening from a trend line.
SORENSON: So if labor is the biggest expense, you are right in the meat of all of the discussions.
DAMRON: Most businesses will have some type of a scorecard. Creating that balanced scorecard, getting your HR metrics in there, also brings you to the table to really be a thought partner and help the business progress and move ahead.
As HR professionals, are we becoming more significant in our role and our impact?
FENWICK: The value of HR really depends on the economy. It seems as if HR is oftentimes the first to go and the last to be hired, and that just might be my point of view. When the economy is tough, HR becomes a skeleton organization. When the economy is great, hey, let’s ramp it up and have them do lots more stuff.
SORENSON: The leadership and training folks end up being like art and PE when the budgets get tough with school. Training, to me, is what goes out the window. They still need HR to process stuff, but training and development always seems to be more vulnerable in tight budgets.
CARTER: With the increase in compliance issues, with a fear of employers to invest in their employees, I feel like the HR role is enhanced. It’s a greater challenge for all of us. We have to be a lot more diverse in our approaches, creative in how we attract and retain people. In my world, with my clientele, the number of requests that I get to do work has increased over the last three years even during a terrible economic recession, and that is not because of me—that is because people need HR help. The profession is growing, and there is a much broader role for an HR professional today than there was 10 or 20 years ago.
FOSTER: And the quality of HR professionals has increased. That is simply because we’re always forced to prove our value in this profession and that’s required us to adapt. There has been so much focus within our profession on becoming a strategic partner and in order to be that, we’ve adapted by getting more educated, becoming more qualified and figuring out how we can provide more value.