Using Talent Analytics as a Storytelling Tool

By: Juleen Veneziano

Leaders are the “makers of meaning” for their organizations. They shape employees’ understanding of what matters to the business, its environment, and its future. When done well, a leader-as-storyteller strengthens the bond employees have with the organization. At its best, the result is a shift in perspective and increased clarity about what is needed, inspiring a “here’s-what-I-can-do” attitude that moves the organization closer toward the desired future.

We need to be able to tell a story with our data.

Telling the story is a critical part of landing an analytics message. Leaders are bombarded with all manner of organizational data in the form of reports, graphics, and dashboards. Despite leaders’ expressed interest in seeing and understanding the data and how it relates to their business, most organizations do not end up using it in a way that drives meaningful action and change. Our research shows that even when high-quality data is available, almost 40% of organizations will not use it to improve their operations (although high-performing companies are significantly more likely to do so). If you then consider that companies use talent data far less frequently and in a more limited capacity as compared to other types of organizational data, it is not surprising that figuring out how to credibly land analytics messaging and do it effectively seems like a daunting task. The messaging has to be different—the challenge is how.

Engaging progressively with your analytics is key

Sharing the results of talent analytics occurs in one of three ways, each of which fosters a progressively more compelling experience with the data. The first two options, deliver and engage, are relatively straightforward in approach and are consistent with what is commonly practiced in organizations. Movement toward the third option, experience, requires the talent leader to serve as a guide in the design and facilitation of a data-driven experience for stakeholders. 

1. Reporting: Talent analytics are shared in a straightforward, and often standard, format. Leaders review key findings or scan for red flags and other key findings. The primary aim is to inform.

2. Interpreting: The HR or talent leader provides an interpretation of what happened, why, and the likelihood of it happening again. Results are tied to the most critical business issues. High-impact visualizations are designed to focus attention and facilitate understanding. The primary aim is to facilitate leaders’ grasp of key findings and prioritization of identified issues.

3. Guiding: Analytics are shared through a mix of compelling, data-driven narratives and a selection of activities tailored to stakeholder needs. For example, results may be used in part to play out different scenarios, with leaders having the opportunity to work through potential solutions and implications. The primary aim is to create an experience that yields a shift in perspective, increases ownership of the talent data, and inspires a commitment to action.

Moving beyond the accurate interpretation of findings and understanding of implications, the core of data-as-experience is about shaping how people think and feel about the organization and the role talent analytics can and should play in its future. While this approach is notably different and the amount of preparation can be significant, when done well, the payoff in increased alignment and commitment to change are worth it.


RHR’s Leader Analytics team employs a mix of techniques to guide leaders through their organization’s talent data. Through that lens, we have seen consistently that our clients’ shared discoveries enable them to see, know, and act on the critical steps needed to improve their organizations.


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