Put it to the tummy test
I was working on an employee engagement project a few years ago, looking to introduce a new measurement tool. The plan was for a twice yearly survey to gauge employee views on the business and more importantly their reported levels of motivation and satisfaction.
I was the project lead which involved persuading the respective boards of the companies within the group covering 52,000 employees with a turnover of c.£5bn. One of the MDs was renowned as being tough, to the point, analytical and generally twice as bright as anyone else on the planet. Before going to see her I prepared my shit. I knew the facts, the figures, the data, the correlations, the business case was as tight as a gnat’s chuff. I was an HR ninja ready to pounce.
I sat through the presentation delivering seamlessly despite her flicking back and forth through the pages of the presentation, scribbling, frowning, huffing and puffing. I got to the end and concluded my reasons for needing to introduce this model and the importance of measuring engagement. I asked if she had any questions.
“I’ve looked at the data” she said, “and quite frankly I’m not convinced. It’s all well and good putting this together but you can’t prove causal link”. My heart sank. “In fact” she went on, “most of this seems to be pulled together to try and justify some sort of nebulous argument for something that you know can’t be proved”. My heart popped. “When actually, instinctively we know this is the right thing to do anyway, regardless of the data. So let’s stop talking and make this happen”.
I have often asked HR people throughout my career, “What does your gut tell you?” to the point of being mocked at times (yes I know who you are and where you live). And I had forgotten the importance of relying on instinct, on a sense of what feels right because I was so tied up in trying to prove something. It was a salutary lesson, that regardless of level, regardless of profession….some things just feel right.
This came back to me in a discussion with a range of HR professionals and consultants whilst I was being preached to about the importance of building a strong business case and being able to justify HR to business leaders in terms that they understood. “What about instinct….about gut feel?” I asked “I call it the tummy test” came a voice from the back. “I ask myself does it pass the tummy test and if so, I do it”.
And that, dear friends, is as good as any other reason out there……