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How to make your CEO care about your workforce data

Discrepancies can arise when different departments use separate models to make the count

You may think that working out how many people work in your organisation is a simple head-counting process, but in large companies, and particularly multi-nationals, the reality can be different.

Discrepancies can arise when different departments use separate models to make the count. Firstly, who is making the calculation – HR, business units or the finance department? Secondly, are they counting full-time workers, temporary staff replacing full-timers on leave and part-timers? Are contractors involved in the list? Although any of those criteria may be valid, if multiple counts are carried out confusion can reign, and reports to CEOs can be misleading, so how does an HR executive ensure that a CEO takes note of their workforce data?

The main issue is to own the information and not get into a tussle with other departments and managers over presentation rights, ensuring that if there is a conflict of information to the CEO, yours is the number which can be established as correct.

This may involve establishing a close working relationship with the head of finance. In the final analysis this will save you both time and energy. It is important to recognise that HR changes and systems may move at a slower pace than other departments.

The HR managers have myriad administrative issues to deal with such as updating roles, job descriptions, compensation formulas, stock options and bonus reviews. Add external legislative matters such as workplace discrimination and possible discussions with unions or local authorities, and the HR change process can need time to catch up and re-align with strategic business plans.

Once you have established that your headcount is the one to take note of, it is important to explain to your CEO exactly what this number impacts upon. Explain how adequate staffing, or the lack thereof, will impact on revenue, investment and attracting new talent. This will help to place HR on a similar level to other departments such as finance.

Showing how the headcount is linked to other business dynamics will ensure your CEO takes note of HR reports on these issues. This will mean you provide a link between talent and performance in the same way that the finance department offers an insight into investment selection and profit. Much is made of investing in staff, so show the value of the staff in your report, highlighting which departments need improvement.

By pointing out where staff levels need to be revised, you will introduce the concept of targets, giving your CEO a glimpse of the future and making your report much more relevant.

Companies need to plan ahead, and your analysis of workplace numbers can highlight which departments may need investment.

This brings us to costs and valuing the staff within the organisation and how they influence the bottom line. By providing the CEO with a model which enables them to contrast labour costs and productivity, you will be enhancing the role of the HR department in the company’s management structure.

Your CEO will soon realise the importance of knowing exactly how many people are contributing to the company’s activities and understand that this involves more than a simple headcount and is crucial to the company’s future success.


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