Metrics service ‘one more point of reference’

Turnover rates most popular measurement for Moneris, BC Assessment and First West
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/26/2011

Originally started by the BC Human Resources Management Association (BC HRMA), the HR Metrics Service is now an inter-provincial collaboration involving four HR associations across Canada.

The service provides data on more than 100 metrics, from revenue per full-time employees and 90-day voluntary turnover rates to the cost revenue percentage of learning and development.

A participating organization receives quarterly and annual reports that show its scores against a comparison range, enabling employers to track their progress and benchmark their performance.

Moneris Solutions

“We’re just happy to have this service that, in my estimation, will do nothing but grow,” says Ken Jacobsen, senior manager of executive and corporate compensation and pensions at Moneris Solutions in Toronto.

“The HR Metrics Service was the first comprehensive source of metrics that we could benchmark against externally. Although we have been tracking certain metrics internally for some time, this was a way to see how we were doing as compared to those with whom we are competing for talent.”

Two big advantages of the program are having a measurement standard and having that standard “endorsed” by HR associations (including the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA), the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba (HRMAM) and the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)) from across the country, he says.

“It means we are all talking the same language when comparing our apples and it means having instant credibility and support for the definition.”

Moneris has been involved with the program since March 2011. The area of greatest interest to the payment processing company is turnover, especially first-year resignation rates.

“The payback period on new hires in many areas of our organization is roughly six months or more on the job. Having an external benchmark gives just that much more information with which to make better decisions,” he says.

Another important measure for the 1,300-employee company is the internal promotion rate.

“We don’t necessarily track this right now and it’s something we’re hoping to be able to develop,” he says. “It’s obviously good to have new blood come into a company as well but you want to make sure you’re continually cultivating and keeping knowledge within.”

A great byproduct of Moneris’ involvement with the service is it has rejuvenated conversations about metrics, he says.

“For example, promoting from within, as mentioned earlier, is part of our employee value proposition. However, promoting for its own sake can be a disservice to both the employee and the company, especially for mission-critical areas and projects. A ‘readiness’ metric will be a good predictor for success and one I’d like to see us develop.”

As for any particular areas in need of improvement, it’s a matter of trending first to really understand the information, says Jacobsen.

“Yes, it has caused us to dig into it but it’s not that we’re changing a business process because of it yet,” he says. “This is just one more piece of information — you’re not hanging your hat on just this one service.”

BC Assessment

BC Assessment has been involved with the HR Metrics Service from the pilot stage in 2008. Back then, the property assessment Crown corporation wasn’t doing a lot in the way of measurement, says Bruce Pollock, director of HR at BC Assessment in Victoria.

“That was the problem — I knew we needed to have a closer look at some metrics.”

The 650-employee organization had started gathering data around turnover since BC Assessment had seen a pronounced demographic shift, with many longer-service employees retiring while others were moving to the private sector.

“There was a lot of concern among senior leaders about increased turnover rates,” he says. “We had contact with other employers and could do one-off comparisons, which was useful and we still do that, but there was no way of establishing a benchmark.”

One benefit of HR Metrics is the ability to break rates down into different employee categories, he says. Since BC Assessment began hiring more people right out of university, it started to notice a spike in turnover when people reached the second- or third-year mark.

“We’ve been able to pinpoint exactly where the problem is by using metrics and now we’ve just completed focus groups with a bunch of employees in that three-year mark and we’re working with them to understand what it is about the job that keeps them or why we’re at risk of losing them, to learn a bit more as to what we might be able to do,” says Pollock.

Other areas of interest include years of service, time-to-fill positions and the absenteeism rate for short-term illness. While the rates for the latter are pretty good, the executive committee or board of directors might be less convinced, he says. By looking at what other organizations are experiencing, “it gives them a little bit of comfort; it’s a way of educating other people who aren’t so close to the issue.”

And the service will only improve with more employers getting involved, says Pollock.

“For the first few quarters, where only a small number of employers were participating, I was trying to take the results with a grain of salt,” he says. “As the survey participant numbers grow, I have more and more confidence in the data.”

First West Credit Union

First West Credit Union became involved in the program because it recognizes the importance of HR showing value- add and a strategic contribution through metrics, says Angie Smith, HR advisor for projects and programs at First West Credit Union in Langley, B.C. As in any survey of this magnitude, a big challenge is ensuring all the participants are using exactly the same criteria in their data reporting.

“This metrics program provided a great opportunity to have common HR definitions for metrics and get metrics benchmarking results which we could begin to compare and analyze our results against,” she says. “Before this metrics program, a common issue was there were so many different definitions for common HR metrics that it was very difficult to find meaningful benchmarks to compare against.”

First West was looking to measure retention metrics, particularly turnover, as well as productivity, such as the human capital return on investment (ROI), and absenteeism.

“The initial pilot included reporting on a specific group of metrics,” says Smith, adding the 1,300-employee company is reviewing additional metrics to report on in 2012.

So far, the process has gone well as BC HRMA has a good reputation, is trusted and well-respected, there is clear direction and the data integrity is good, says Smith.

“They are supportive of making changes to written criteria if there is clear agreement on what should be changed.”

First West is also able to benchmark to its own industry since there are many other credit unions in B.C. that are participating in the HR Metrics Service. Plus, the survey only needs to be completed quarterly which means it is not too time-consuming, she says.

“We are starting to get some good benchmarking data which means we can now do trend analysis, and we are able to identify areas where we consistently have positive results as well as areas where we need to place more focus on so that we can initiate plans to improve results,” says Smith. “Another advantage is the opportunity to share and learn from other participants.”

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