HR Data Visualization – Why Looks Matter

Data visualization because looks matter

We’ve all been there. We’re  either a presenter or observer at a presentation and a slide goes up. And it looks something like this:

And when this happens, when HR data visualization consists of bland charts and graphs, one of two things typically happens:

    1. The air gets sucked out of the room and you feel the audience withdrawing, checking out, glazing over
    2. You sense an energy shift in the room. And an atmosphere of challenging, rationalizations, judgements and defensiveness starts to emerge.

Of course, if things are really going your way, both happen. Half your room is checked out and the other has its back up.

This can happen in your weekly or monthly leadership meeting where, as HR, you are expected to report on people data. This data may include measures of:

  • headcount
  • turnover
  • employee engagement
  • open requisitions
  • time to fill
  • cost of hire
  • quality of hire, and more.

Data visualization matters

These reactions are not surprising. On the one hand, some people just cannot relate to flat numbers on a page or screen. Some find them intimidating and others find them boring and uninspiring. Others approach data presented in this way with skepticism. As a result, they question, judge and look for flaws. And they often focus on the source or integrity of the data rather than what the data is saying.

hen you start with flat, grey data you effectively shut down higher brain functions. You kill creative thinking and supress emotional response in your audience. However, this certainly isn’t the outcome HR seeks to achieve with executives (or anyone). HR should tell compelling stories about the people and the data, and make connections to business outcomes. We should share insights, and make a difference and impress. However, for many of us in HR, our reporting style and lack of insight holds us back.

Paint a picture and tell a story

Imagine comprehensive and integrated people analytics at your fingertips. Imagine, you enter the boardroom and present your HR data and metrics through interactive visuals that go beyond the basics. Below we have examples of:

  • Headcount by Generation
  • Headcount by Location
  • First Year Turnover
  • New Hire Engagement, and
  • New Hire Engagement by Department.

With interactive analytics and with thoughtful HR data visualization, you can do so much more. For example, you can drill down into any attribute and show the data so that is easy to understand.

With analytics presented in this way our data-averse colleagues aren’t tuned out. Instead, they lean forward, think, and decipher the story and mean embedded in the data visualizations. Certainly our skeptics are now working with us to figure out ways to move the dial or change red to green on the charts. And both groups inevitably ask for more. You’ve captured their attention and interest.

Why data visualizaton works

There is an emotional response to data visualizations that inspires curiosity, thought and action. Instead of just seeing the data, we feel it when it is presented in attractive, informative and insightful ways. Even when you  see information you already know, data visualizations provide the opportunity to feel it. Good visualizations evoke a response and trigger understanding that numbers in a chart simply cannot. Forbes clearly articulates the power of data visualization in this article.

In the above examples, we lean in and are compelled to understand what we are seeing. Consequently, once we understand what we see, it begs the questions why, how come, and what to do about it. This then triggers conversation, decision-making and action. And as a result, all these drive to better people performance.

Data visualization is powerful and can change the dynamic in the boardroom. Attractive and informative visualizations of your data can command attention and get people engaged. In conclusion, people finally see and understand your story. This the provides a foundation to collaborate and take action towards elevating people and business performance.

If every picture tells a story, a picture is worth a 1000 words, and seeing is believing… what are you waiting for? You have a compelling people-story to share. Communicate it in a way that engages, excites, and motivates the business to action.