A business case for ‘heartcount’

21 oktober 2021

“Don’t bother about headcount, start looking at heartcount. Don’t settle for satisfied employeees, instead go for engaged workers,” Svante Randlert pleaded at our HR Tech event in Antwerp. He further made his point by referring to studies revealing correlations between engaged people and financial profit. Many in the audience felt inspired, yet one or two hr-directors remained sceptical.

They would have preferred to take home more concrete enablers for these lofty principles. Without a well documented businesscase for engagement, they felt they would never convince fellow members in the executive suite. Least of all the old school CFO, always eager to cut costs and of course headcount.

I suspect the old school CFO forgets that the field of HR is much more complex than his field, in which assets are accounted for in a balance sheet, p&l or managementreport. CFO’s have to comply to a lot of rules, but once they know how to comply, they get a predictable outcome. And you can count on a lot of goodwill from internal and external stakeholders.

But to manage immaterial assets like engagement, learning mindsets, wellness… one has to take into account a number of multidimensional variables that are interlinked. Tweaking onze variable, may cause unpredictrable changes in others. A brilliant learning session could be wasted on a team that is plagued by stress, or its ROI might be wiped out by a leader who leaves no space whatsoever for creativity.

So how could HR ever hope to make a business case? In some cases, a CEO who keeps well in touch with people on the floor, is convinced easily. He experiences daily what the difference is between employees who are satisfied (the ones who do the job they are supposed to do) and people who are really engaged (the ones that make a difference).

Still, HR can do more than just hope for an enlightened CEO. Maybe technology can help? Research by SD Worx confirms that HR digitalisation is much more focussed on transactional activities and less employee centered. Automation certainly is a start, because it frees up time for other activities and it also yields a lot of data. Maybe one day it will be considered best practice to collect and organise hr data about engagement, wellness, talent, leadership… Maybe KPI’s can be established to follow up on soft business drivers like engagement, wellness, leadership... ?

Maybe one day a business case can be made for heartcount that convinces even the CFO?