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Does Your HR Story Jump off the Dashboard? Three Elements to Consider.

When talking about HR and analytics, the conversation eventually moves to storytelling. Like much of what we discuss these days, the topic is not new, yet, it is still relevant.  

Over the years, contributors to the storytelling conversation include people such as Edward Tufte, who changed the way we think about quantitative and qualitative data visualization; and Paul Smith, former executive at Proctor & Gamble, who positioned storytelling in business as a tool to define culture, foster collaboration, and lead change through his book Lead with a Story.  

In short, these people, among others who preceded and followed them, teach us that good storytelling compels others to think and act differently. 

Yet, with all the conversation about storytelling, HR dashboards, a channel for delivering the HR story, are still quite boring. 

Here are three things that will help the HR story jump off the dashboard. 


Regardless what your mother taught you, everything is a competition. If you do not compete, at least with yourself, you cannot move forward. Competition requires a comparison of where you were to where you are and to where you could be.

While the concept of targets on a dashboard may be fundamental to many people, in the past year I have reviewed dozens of HR dashboards that fail to give some kind of meaningful comparison. We are only as good as that to which we compare. Adding targets for comparison, give consumers of data a basis for knowing if we’re doing well or otherwise.

Business Measures.

We talk about HR Business Partners and seats at the business table, but when it comes to the HR dashboard, where is the business? The reason leaders care about turnover, absenteeism, promotions, top-performers, low-performers, and the like is because these types of data are important to the business. That does not mean that leaders don’t care about people. In fact, it means that they do care. If leaders make good business decisions, it means they can take care of people. 

If the HR dashboard in going to help influence decision making, it needs to provide influential information. Start weaving into your dashboard story the connection between changes in HR metrics with related changes in business metrics if you want to capture the attention of others.


Money talks. Those reading who know my husband and me, know well our position on this issue. All roads lead to ROI. It’s true. Without money, we can’t make good things happen. And while the intangibles in business are important, money talks.

Think about it. If your dashboard shows a decrease in turnover of a certain job group, that’s great. If it shows the monetary value of that decrease – now, that’s a story.

I’m not suggesting that you relate money to every metric on the dashboard. And, I’m certainly not suggesting you put on the front page of your dashboard how much HR spends. But, I am saying, if you want to compel someone to act – convert a metric to money.

HR dashboards are channels for delivering the HR story. While technology can help make delivery easier, it’s up to the HR practitioner to structure the plot. Add targets, business measures, and money to the narrative so that you can compel people to think and act differently about HR. Organizations don’t invest in people because they can, they do it because they should; and why they should is found in the story.

Patti Phillips, Ph.D., is president & CEO, ROI Institute, and chair of i4cp’s People Analytics Board