Monitoring HR Practices


Organizational strategic planning has three distinct components. The first component is the establishment of the plan, which includes the high-level setting of vision, mission, and organizational objectives. The second is making the plan operational, and includes the implementation of the plan throughout all levels of the company, so that departments and business plans align in support of the planned strategy. The final element is that of monitoring all of the organizational activities, which is critical for ensuring the workforce is moving in the direction set by the plan, in order to meet the strategic objectives.

While HR plays an integral role throughout the strategic planning process, workforce monitoring (the third step) is the purview of the HR function. It is the role of HR to track and measure what the workforce is doing. HR provides the monitoring framework to ensure that not only is everyone headed in the same direction, but that the workforce activities are meeting timelines and required projections.

The concept of monitoring the workforce is not new. The means in which workforce monitoring takes place, however, has adjusted significantly with the evolution of HR technology. For example, the use of artificial intelligence platforms allows for computer keystroke monitoring. This is used as a measurement tool to track and report on employee performance levels. While the impetus for this type of monitoring stems from the need to track, measure, and report on productivity as a performance metric, it does come with a negative perspective. As noted in this article, keystroke monitoring has a distasteful aspect of spying or snooping on employees. The use of this intrusive software is made worse in these days of remote workforce management, due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Is the continued practice of workforce monitoring with spyware necessary?

A recent post in the Canadian HR Reporter provides us with a refreshing approach to meeting the current challenges that face the remote work environment. The article highlights the real opportunities that HR can put into place by eliminating unnecessary practices in order to sustain business continuity for the organization. Rather than obsessing about employee productivity levels, through the elimination of unnecessary and intrusive practices, a simplified HR approach can lead to a new way while still maintaining support for the organizational strategic plan.

Discussion Questions:

  1. To what degree do you think the employer should be able to monitor the remote workforce?
  2. Instead of keystroke monitoring software, what other mechanisms can be put into place to track and report on employee performance?
  3. How would you react if you found out your employer was using spyware to monitor your work patterns? Explain your rationale.

The HR Danger of Overconfident Leadership

Leaders, from supervisors to CEOs, are crucial to any organization’s successes, but the research is showing that overconfidence in leaders can have a detrimental effect on organizational performance. This overconfidence problem in leadership has two main factors to consider:

  1. Overconfidence does not equal ability.
  2. Overconfident leaders are prone to “ideator’s bias.”

Let’s review overconfident leadership in a little more detail, based on the two ideas above. Overconfidence not equaling ability can be seen in the following examples, which were some of the biggest disastrous business decisions of all time that led to organizational downfalls:

  • Western Union rejecting the patent on the telephone.
  • Kodak creating the digital camera, then killing the idea as not feasible.
  • Blockbuster passing on buying Netflix.

We know these decisions were critical mistakes for these organizations, but here is a quote that may take the cake on poor leadership decision-making, from Michael Lazaridis, founder of Blackberry. The creator of the smartphone said this, as he pointed to a BlackBerry with a keyboard:

“I get this,” he said. “It’s clearly differentiated.” Then he pointed to a touchscreen phone. “I don’t get this.”

Hafez Husin/Shuttestock

Blackberry at its peak had 75% of the mobile phone market. The company no longer even makes Blackberry phones now. Where would Blackberry be today if its leadership had made some different decisions?

Not all disastrous organizational decisions are caused by an overconfident leader, but in the examples above, it must be admitted that the leaders’ decision-making was flawed.

In a Talent and HR Management article by John Hackston, a well-researched phenomenon known as the “Dunning-Kruger effect” (D-K effect) is outlined. This is a theory that posits that the less a leader knows about a topic, the more confident the leader is in making a decision about the topic. This is also known as the “Dunder-Mifflin effect,” which anyone who has ever watched Michael Scott on The Office, as he makes a series of blundering decisions, will understand. Click here to see some of Michael Scott’s worst decisions.

The second problem of overconfident leadership is closely tied to the D-K effect, and it is called “ideator’s bias.” Ideator’s bias occurs when the individual believes that their own ideas are better than the ideas of those around them. Leadership is about bringing out the best in your people, not believing you are the best in your organization. Leaders and organizations should try to remember Jim Collins’s ideas of leadership from his book Good to Great, and his concept of the Level 5 leader:

“At Level 5, you have all of the abilities needed for the other four levels, plus you have the unique blend of humility and will that’s required for true greatness.”

A quality that leaders need to adopt to become a great leader, and avoid the two pitfalls of the D-K effect and ideator’s bias, is to bring humility into their skill set as leaders. If a leader is prone to combining the phenomena of the D-K effect and ideator’s bias, one can only believe that it is just a matter of time before a leader’s decision becomes disastrous.

Discussion Questions:

1. Complete more intensive research on the D-K effect, ideator’s bias, and a concept called “optimism illusion” (not discussed in this post). Create an executive summary comparing these three concepts.

2. Imagine your VP of HR has just read your executive summary and now wants you to create a PowerPoint presentation. Create a five-minute PowerPoint presentation explaining how to prevent the D-K effect, ideator’s bias, and optimism illusion from occurring in your organization.

3. Review Jim Collins’s Level 5 leadership concept, and think about the supervisors you’ve worked with. What level of leadership would you place them at, and how did their leadership level affect your job performance?

HR Tells The Strategic Story


Once upon a time the Human Resources role had little to do with numbers, data, and analytics. The numbers used to be in the purview of the organizational finance function. Data analysis, in its early stages, may have been linked to finance, but was usually found in the Information Technology department. The Human Resources (HR) function was associated with making sure people entered and exited the organization based on the needs of other business units. As these other functions were presumed to have control over numbers and data, the HR role was not seen the active driver for organizational strategy.

This story has changed.

According to a recent global research project comparing past and present use of data and analytics in organizations, HR is now the ‘most analytics function in business.’

Click here to read the results of the global research project and HR’s role.

As noted in the results, HR respondents outpace those from the finance areas in the use of artificial intelligence, predictive, and prescriptive analytics. These areas are used to track, monitor, and forecast key HR strategic planning elements such as supply and demand for human capital, succession planning, change management, downsizing, and restructuring. All of these are the elements of our studies and provide the focus for the strategic role of HR within any organization.

The tools provided through the use of artificial intelligence, including predictive and prescriptive analytics, are rightly placed in the realm of the HR function. Through the use of analytics, HR is both the transformational agent for, and the storyteller of, the strategic organizational plan. It is HR’s role to collect and control data, translate that data into information and use that information to shape and tell the organizational story.

That story is the tale of where the organization was, where it is and where it is going, as told through the power of analytics and HR.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does predictive analytics link to the forecasting of HR supply and demand?
  2. Why is it important for the HR and the Finance function to work collaboratively when analyzing workforce data?
  3. How can HR use predictive analytics to shape a pro-active succession planning model?
  4. What is the difference in predictive and prescriptive analytics? How can each be used for HR planning?

Why Measurement Matters

Jamila Aliyeva/Shutterstock

Dr. David Weiss is a leader in the field of Canadian Human Resources research. In 1999, his book, High-Impact HR Transforming Human Resources for Competitive Advantage, was published. In it, he describes the employee life cycle as one of ‘Hatch-Match-Dispatch’ which must be supported by the Human Resources function in order to be aligned with organizational strategy. His writing, at the time, was revolutionary.

Twenty years later, the concept of the employee life cycle is more important than ever. It provides the framework to measure the effectiveness of the Human Resources function, through the lens of employee engagement.

A recent article published in Fast Company, provides us with a synopsis of how metrics and measures can, and should, be used to track employee engagement from the beginning to the end of the employee life cycle.

Click here to read the article.

As noted in the article, employee engagement is not just about ensuring that the workforce is ‘happy’ by providing a ‘fun’ environment. Happiness is an elusive thing to measure. It does not assess whether or not the workforce actually is productive or involved with the achievement of organizational goals and objectives. What the Human Resources function can assess is the level to which employees feel connected and involved with the organization at any point during their personal journey within the organization. From the entry point into the organization, Human Resources can measure recruitment and on-boarding strategies. At mid-point, through communication, feedback, and usage tracking, Human Resources can assess the effectiveness of rewards strategies, training, and career development. At the exit point, Human Resources can evaluate the gaps between the expected level of loyalty and commitment to the organization and the reality that causes employees to leave, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Throughout all of this, what Human Resources is measuring is the level of commitment to organizational culture which is the metric for evaluating employee engagement.

The field of Human Resources research continues to develop through the analysis of applicable measurement and metrics. Twenty years from now, perhaps this will lead us to capturing the elusive goal of evaluating employee happiness.

Discussion Questions:

  1. The article refers to eNPS. What is it and how does it link to the measurement of employee engagement?
  2. Identify three specific Human Resources initiatives you think can be measured to evaluate employee engagement at the mid-point of the employee life cycle.
  3. Besides exit interviews, identify two additional Human Resources initiatives that can be measured at the end of the employee life cycle.
  4. Identify the types of tools or systems that are needed to track employee engagement from the beginning to the end of the employee life cycle.


Ethics & HR


For Human Resources professionals in Ontario, our practices as members are regulated through the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). As posted on the HRPA website, ‘the overarching objective of HRPA’s regulatory function is to protect the public by ensuring that human resources professionals in Ontario are competent and act in an ethical manner’. [1]

Certified members of the HRPA in Ontario must abide by the ‘Rules of Professional Conduct’ which clearly articulate the ethical requirement for the profession in Chapter 3 of this document.

Click here to access the HRPA’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

In the wake of much-publicized employee and individual data breaches, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it seems that the need for ethical regulation is more critical for the profession than ever. We live and work in a world that is virtual. Our work-world is based in digital technology, which allows access to data that is linked to each one of us personally. In this technological environment, according to a recent publication, there are no ethical boundaries that frame or guide how our individual data can be stored, used, and manipulated by others in the workplace.

Click here to read the article.

While the Cambridge Analytica data breach and similar events have resulted in the introduction of increased privacy legislation in several countries, there remains an absence of ‘techno-ethics’ within the virtual workplace. Ethical conduct goes beyond simple compliance with laws and regulations. It speaks to a component of human behaviour that calls upon individual honesty, integrity, and personal accountability to care for our fellow human beings, and their personal data.

For the HR professional, our ethical responsibilities to the profession are in place. It is time to transfer these professional responsibilities into the virtual world to ensure that ethical conduct provides real protection for individuals and organizations alike.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As an HR practitioner, outline an ethics policy which focuses on the protection of employee data.
  2. What types of employee data should be protected? When and how should employee data be shared?
  3. How do you want your personal demographic data to be stored?
  4. What is the HR practitioner’s role when employee data protections are breached?