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You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need

By | Alexis Fink | People Analytics and Workforce Strategy

It has been really exciting for me to watch the blossoming of People Analytics over the past decade or so. More and more organizations and professionals are recognizing the huge impact that analytics can provide to help organizations operate more fairly and effectively and to help support employees. 

I had a wonderful conversation recently where someone talked about the big changes she’d noticed in our organization over the past few years. It made my heart really happy to hear others talk about the impact that an excellent People Analytics team can make on their organization and on the careers of the professionals within the team.

One of the big challenges for our field overall is shifting from a service provider role to more of a strategic partnership role. I realize that those are easy words to say, but pretty abstract, and also pretty hard to get right. I’ve had about a half a dozen conversations about that transition in the last week or so, so I thought it might be useful to share some of the thoughts more broadly.

The essence of this is really captured in the immortal words of Keith Richards: “You can’t always get what you want…but you get what you need.” In that spirit, here are a few key things to keep in mind as you engage with your clients and partners. Please add your insights, observations, best discovery questions and stakeholder jedi mind tricks in the comments!

 A question or request is the start of a conversation. Early in my career, I thought my job was to answer questions. Specifically, I thought success was answering exactly what I was asked. At first, I thought follow up questions were success – “Hey! They are interested! They know who I am and I’m valuable to them!” Later, I came to view follow up questions as failure – “Crud, I haven’t actually helped them make this important decision they are struggling with.” Over time, I learned that a question or request is often just someone’s poking around a problem. I also learned that you don’t actually have to answer every question – part of our job is making sure that we are focused on those questions that will drive decisions and impact and it can be as important to say no as to say yes. A lot of questions are just pondering out loud rather than a real request!

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