Voice of the HR Profession: “Charts and Graphs are Hard to Follow”

By Greta Roberts, CEO, Talent Analytics, Corp., @gretaroberts

Greta Roberts | Talent AnalyticsProgram Chair, Predictive Analytics World for Workforce

In early August, our Director of Marketing reached out to the Editor of a well-known online magazine.  They are described as one of the leading voices in the HR profession that serves human resource leaders and professionals.  (We agree).

We approached them offering two high value, well-received articles that use an analytics approach to understand employee attrition.  These articles described how to calculate the true cost of employee attrition, how to identify where the largest costs are and how to think about, map and visualize how attrition plays out in an organization.

Understanding and visualizing real attrition cost can often be the impetus employers need to begin a strategic project to reduce attrition – typically in high volume roles like sales, call centers, insurance agents, bank tellers and the like.

We realize Editors need to be responsive to the needs of their readers – and only provide timely and interesting content.  We know not everyone finds our research or opinions as interesting as we find them.  We’d want to reject material that didn’t fit too.

What shook us was the reason given for not being interested in this content.  Read the transcript below for reasons our articles were not chosen.

———- Forwarded message ———-

Date: Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 1:49 PM
Subject: Re: Article submission – solving employee attrition

I am going to pass on these for a couple of reasons.

  1. These seem like marketing pieces for talent analytics, and our magazine is obligated to be “vendor neutral and non-promotional.”
  2. Lots of charts and graphs in the second one, and probably more than the typical reader wants to dig through.
  3. I like this kind of stuff and yet I had a hard time following along or staying engaged. My guess is that typical readers might feel the same.

So, thanks for sending but I am going to pass this time around.


———- End Forwarded message ———-

I was compelled to write this blog because it’s a bigger issue than them not featuring our articles.  We have plenty of outlets.

Every other area of business is ramping up analytics to create a knowledge-based culture.  Rather than embracing this advance, this publication is actively making choices to keep Human Capital in the dark.

News sources such as this feed the impression that “HR doesn’t deserve a place at the table,” or that HR is “soft” or “vague.”  It is disappointing to see forces actively holding our industry in this place.

Charts and graphs are at the core of analytics. We have found that professionals are well capable of understanding when important concepts are being displayed with a chart or graph.

We’re all fed and influenced by online news feeds, magazines and so called experts.  We expect Editors to provide content that keeps us current, to push the envelope a little, to open us up, to challenge our HR leaders and professionals and prepare them for what they need in order to stay competitive.

High ROI is discussed everywhere in areas like customer analytics, voter analytics, and patient analytics (each a different kind of human behavior fully utilizing the value analytics can bring).  I don’t see these discussions as often in the area of human capital as in other areas.

Our human capital ecosystem needs to get smarter.  We need Editors who get excited about reading charts and graphs and assume leaders in the HR Profession do too.

Want to read the 2 articles? Request Churn 201 and Churn 202.

For those of you excited about Charts and Graphs and what they can teach about Employee Attrition – click here to request Churn 201 and 202 (the 2 articles Greta discusses above) and we’ll be happy to send them along.

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13 Responses to “Voice of the HR Profession: “Charts and Graphs are Hard to Follow””

  1. Scott Mondore Says:

    August 19th, 2014 at 10:57 am

    You are preaching to the choir here! Try submitting an article that shows definitive proof that employee engagement doesn’t drive business outcomes or anything that uses advanced analytics that doesn’t reinforce the latest fad. If HR wants credibility, they need to step up and show true business value. Chart/Graphs certainly help and direct statistical impact seals the deal.
    Take care,

  2. Meta Brown Says:

    August 20th, 2014 at 10:03 am

    This editor doesn’t seem to be much of an editor. You have solid content here. Why didn’t he offer to work with you on revisions to suit his readers? Or at least provide meaningful guidelines?

  3. Mike Says:

    August 20th, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Good question, Meta! We were wondering the same thing.

  4. Henner Says:

    August 20th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Greta and team,

    this is so true and I can speak from own experience wanting to write a book about big data in HR (with a pure business perspective), and the first publication answered the following when rejecting the project:
    “I recognize that this title would be the first of its kind but I’m unclear as to the value of Big Data’s focus in a book form when this topic is so new, still evolving and developing. And even further limiting, we are restricting the scope to only HR coverage.”
    I think that the HR profession needs a drastic change (also given that I never had a positive experience with any of my former employer’s HR departments) to better understand the business impact of employee based decisions and provide this insight to business leaders and down to the employee…
    Please keep on with your persistence and help us all make the HR function 21st century.

  5. Camille Smith Says:

    August 25th, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    the Editor’s response reveals exactly why metrics need to be adopted by HR. HR can no longer afford to be paper-pushers, it must be strategic partner with best-fit and people development as it’s flag. Why don’t I market my leadership coaching, talent management to HR? Because they are seen (typically,historically) as an admin/cost center, not a revenue generator — which with data and a change in HR’s accountabilities it could be. Onward!

  6. John Sumser Says:

    August 26th, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    The feedback you got was that the editor thought your stuff was poorly written. She said, “I like this kind of stuff and yet I had a hard time following along or staying engaged. My guess is that typical readers might feel the same.”

    As someone who is on the receiving end of hundreds of emails like yours, I’m perpetually surprised by people like you who take the answer as no instead of trying to meet the editor’s critique. You were given the opportunity to rewrite and blew it off.

    “Oh”, you say, “she didn’t say that at all.” Nope, she didn’t. But she did offer very explicit corrective advice which you chose to dismiss rather than fixing. This one’s all on you.

    When you submit an unsolicited piece of material to a publication, you are one of a thousand voices crying to be heard. It’s incumbent on you to be different enough to stand out.

    By blaming the media instead of shouldering your responsibility as a marketer, you are actively working against the your own interests and this of the industry (in spite of what you say here). Your assertion that the industry needs to hear your message is not enough to get the message through.

  7. Mike Says:

    August 27th, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Thanks for the feedback John. Out of curiosity, did you read either article?

  8. John Sumser Says:

    August 27th, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I didn’t. Probably won’t. You’ve done absolutely nothing to persuade me that reading them would be a good investment of time.

    The question is not whether I (or anyone else for that matter) thinks you somehow got screwed because an editor didn’t see how wonderful your prose is. Our shared (or divergent) definition of quality is not the issue.

    If you are a marketer, your job is to persuade. When you fail at persuasion, it’s not anybody else’s fault.

  9. Hillary Says:

    August 29th, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    As someone who read both articles and found them to be well written, packed with valuable information and thus, “a good investment of time,” I am wondering if you perhaps missed the point? The editor’s response was a perfect example of the chasm that exists between those who are still content with traditional/transactional HR vs. those who acknowledge that although strategic talent analysis is disruptive, complex and heavy on statistics/metrics/math, Big Data can deliver unprecedented organizational performance results- and really is the future.

  10. Joe Duggan Says:

    September 2nd, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Personally, I would much prefer to read even a poorly written article about a cutting edge initiative, over a superbly written piece on a same old topic by the same author(s) and same organization(s) that I’ve been reading for the past 20+ years. HR publications and seminars are chock full of the latter. Shouldn’t it all be about education, new ideas, and progressing thought?

    HR organizations, HR publications, and too many HR professionals are apparently resistant to change. They are all missing out on the unique opportunity that Workforce Analytics offers to elevate our role and our contribution to business. Executive Management is increasingly seeking better “business intelligence” from HR, and the journey has only just begun.

  11. Gareth Jones Says:

    October 19th, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Greta

    Forgive me, I didn’t see the links to the tow pieces in question. Can you post them or point me in the right direction? I’ll happily read them and then comment.



  12. Giulia A.D. Savorgnan Says:

    February 19th, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Greta,

    I love reading articles full of complicated and insightful charts. Unfortunately many people are afraid of charts because they believe they cannot understand them, and they are not willing to get out of their comfort zone. Rather than admitting so, they prefer to reject such content. I am very keen and curious to read the articles, as your post here has absolutely motivated me to do so, but unfortunately the link to request the articles is not working. Could you please forward them to me?


  13. Carla Gentry Says:

    February 20th, 2017 at 9:47 am

    We have fixed the issue, thank you so much for pointing it out! Warmest regards, Talent Analytics, Corp. Team

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