Back in November, Seth Godin wrote:
"Sometimes, we can't measure what we need, so we invent a proxy, something that's much easier to measure and stands in as an approximation."
We do this all the time in HR out of necessity - we measure employee satisfaction because there's a connection between satisfaction and productivity, for example; and it's difficult in many (but not all) roles to measure productivity directly. Godin goes on to explain how this can become a problem when we focus on the proxy (in this example, employee satisfaction) and forget the goal (in this example, employee productivity):
"...When we fall in love with a proxy, we spend our time improving the proxy instead of focusing on our original (more important) goal instead"
I believe we often fall into this trap too - being obsessed with employee satisfaction metrics as if they are an end in themselves, forgetting that the point is to increase employee productivity - and that:
- There are many other paths to boosting employee productivity; and
- Not all of the ways to increase employee satisfaction will also increase employee productivity.
What are some other examples of the "false proxy trap" in HR?
(This post originally appeared at strategicworkforceplanning.blogspot.com, the other place I blog at from time to time)
- Avoiding the false proxy trap (sethgodin.typepad.com)