Journalists, as a rule, hate math. Most of us entered the profession because we’re good with words, not numbers. Maybe that’s why I get along so well with HR professionals.
HR is all about people, after all, and the majority of the HR professionals I’ve talked arithmetic with have expressed a similar loathing of number crunching.
Despite my feelings about mathematics, I use a calculator every day. Just flip through the pages of this issue — you’ll be hard-pressed to find stories that don’t contain figures, percentages, ratios and more. My math teachers, amid comments of “I told you math affects everything,” would be proud.
Not only do editors have to correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, but we have to check and double-check the numbers. You’d be surprised at how often statisticians and PR people make mistakes. There’s a big difference between a 10 per cent increase and a 10 percentage point increase — yet I regularly receive press releases (even from banks) that have that nuance wrong.
So, despite a career choice I thought would steer me well clear of math, I’m still wrapped up in numbers and calculations on a daily basis. I suspect many HR professionals can sympathize with this.
There’s always been a certain element of math to everything the HR department does, but the focus on HR metrics has multiplied it by the power of 10.
That’s why we decided to do the “CFOs talk” feature where senior editor Sarah Dobson spoke to five chief financial officers across Canada about HR metrics. We’ve done features like this in the past where we’ve talked to senior HR leaders and CEOs about critical workforce issues, but we wanted to take the pulse of CFOs — the “numbers people” — to get their take on the importance of HR metrics.
The short answer: The numbers people care about HR metrics. A lot.
This is hardly surprising. In the last decade, the HR profession’s profile has heightened significantly. With that has come a true awareness of the huge financial benefit of getting HR right, and the extreme cost of getting it wrong.
HR professionals, like it or not, have to become experts at math on top of all the other hats they wear. None of this applies to calculus and algebra, though — there’s simply no need for any of that.
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