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Influencing With Data

Mike Joyner

Whether you’re leading your team through transitions or actively looking for your next role, we continue to hear about the emphasis of influencing with data and operational excellence. Companies are starting to see these skills as table stakes for talent leaders. So much so that we’ve seen leaders in adjacent functions like sales enablement, people analytics, people operations and strategy roles transition to leading recruiting teams. In the past, leaders that weren’t strong in this area could hire a #2 that spiked in these skills or a Sr. Recruiting Ops leader or an analyst to fill the gap, but with tighter budgets and leaner teams, recruiting leaders are now in a position of needing to pull in temporary fractional operations support or to develop this skill on their own.

One of the contributors to this is how hiring demand and planning is evolving. Leaders in the business are shifting away from broader headcount growth numbers and into being held accountable to operating budgets, which means that new and backfill roles in many companies are being scrutinized more than in prior years. This means that recruiting teams will need to remain adaptable to support what will be unpredictable demand for the foreseeable future with a leaner team that can hire for a more diverse group of functions and across time zones for global teams.

So what does it mean to influence with data and drive operational excellence?

  • Influencing with data means that you’re able to confidently work with messy recruiting and people data, explore the data for insights, and use those insights to influence a decision or change to strategy or tactics.
  • Operational excellence is about zooming out to see recruiting as a system with lots of interconnected parts and creating a culture where the team is committed to getting 1% better every day.
  • By improving operations, the quality of your data improves, which then improves the quality of your decision making. As each of these continue to improve over time, you’ll be able to get more and more consistent results.

From our experience, there are three essential areas that when used together can be a powerful way to build credibility and influence.

  1. Transforming messy data - mastery of common formulas that allow you to quickly transform data to join it together, split it apart, group it together, and validate it will save you hours of time and wasted energy.
  2. Summarizing information - build flexible summary views that aggregate data in a way that makes sense for your company, organization, and team. We’ve talked to leaders that have spent days manually categorizing information just so they could get the right ‘cut of data’ only to find out that decision makers need to see information organized in a slightly different way.
  3. Visualizing key insights - there’s increasingly more data being captured, and the ability to distill insights and summaries down to simple tables and charts is essential. But not just throwing it into a generic chart. It’s important to understand the visual shortcuts all humans use to process information, and customize visualizations in a way to focus attention on the key insights.

What if I told you that you should be able to count the number of 0s in the top image below in less than a second? Compare that to how quickly you can do that in the bottom image. There are some simple techniques you can use to level up how you’re presenting information.

We know that influencing with data is a skill that requires equal parts tactical skills development to learn the tools, real experience applying these skills, and a community to clarify, iterate and learn from as new questions arise. We’ll be focusing on and diving deeper into each of these in a our course Influencing with Data.

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