Is the question more important than the answer in HR analytics?

I was tempted to make this my shortest post ever by simply writing yes. Most people may agree with me but let you tell you why from an analyst perspective.

I was tempted to make this my shortest post ever by simply writing yes. Most people may agree with me but let you tell you why from an analyst perspective.

Before I do that I will try and convince those who disagree with some of my favourite quotes regarding questions and answers. I have limited myself to five:

  • “There are no right answers to wrong questions.” – Ursula K Le Guin
  • “Sometimes questions are more important than answers.” – Nancy Willard
  • “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” – Decouvertes
  • “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers”  – Voltaire
  • “If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.” – Edward Hodnett

As you can see asking ‘good’ questions is the key. Asking lots of irrelevant question will only cloud the situation and damage your reputation. So why do I believe that questions are more important than the answers? Its because the HR community who I work with tend to know the answers. What they don’t have is the confidence to apply that knowledge to data challenges. By asking questions I am not necessarily trying to get the answer for me (unless of course I am building a dashboard, confirming a KPI or requiring context to my findings). What I am actually hoping for is that light bulb moment when they apply their knowledge to the analysis issue or begin thinking of other questions that will produce even better solutions. If nothing else I am trying to show them that being an analyst is not a mystical science and that they have the ability to apply knowledge to analysing data in order to drive Hr strategies.

Despite claiming that questions or more important it is sometimes necessary to suggest potential answers to your own questions in the hope that your HR colleague will identify a nugget or expand and develop one of your answers.

HRBP

About Neil Parkinson

Neil received his degree from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1994. After gaining experience across a number of roles he embarked on a career in recruitment/HR analysis. After successfully implementing a culture of data led decision making across two recruitment advertising agencies he moved to BSkyB to set up a new reporting function.

Neil set up his own consultancy in 2012 to help clients bring their data to life. He has worked on developing strategic KPIs, designing dashboards and enhancing in-house analysis capability. At Diageo he facilitates organisation effectiveness through the interpretation and presentation of HR data.

He shares his analysis thoughts via his blog, attends the gym and travels regularly around the world.

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