There is no shortage of calls for people in Human Resources to get more business savvy, and to strive to become more well versed in math, statistics, and finance. Many of the leading vendors of Human Resources software have reflected this trend, by rebranding, launching new analytics tools, and emphasizing the importance of data in HR strategy.
And it is not just Human Resources professionals that have been told that better command of hard subjects of math, science, and technology are needed for sustained competitive advantage; here in the USA we have seen repeated calls for an increased focus on these subjects in primary and secondary education. It is kind of conventional wisdom that American students are falling behind their peers around the world in these subjects, and without concerted efforts to raise these skills in the next generation, America's position as a leader in industry, invention, and innovation will surely be diminished.
Let's put aside for now that in China, considered by many to be America's main competition for invention and innovation, many educators are striving to find ways to enable more opportunities to encourage student's creativity, and to move away from their traditional 'drill and test' approach. In the words of one Chinese educator ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.’
A recent survey by IBM of over fifteen hundred CEO's showed that these CEO's rated 'creativity' as the single most important attribute needed for future organizational success. Perhaps these CEOs felt that the basics of math, statistics, and analytics are a given, a necessary ante to even play the game, and only those organizations and leaders that can apply the insights derived from the analysis of operational and workforce data in creative and innovative ways will be the winners in the future. Or perhaps it was a unspoken nod to the over reliance on financial and statistical analysis that has dominated formal business education for ages.
I understand that the push and the advice to HR leaders and HR professionals to gain a better understanding of math, finance, statistics, etc. probably stems from a perception and history of being concerned with the 'soft' stuff, employee relations, benefits admin, and the like. Gaining credibility as professionals and as a discipline certainly seems to hinge, at least in part, on changing that perception by demonstrating 'real' business skills and acumen.
I just hope that the emphasis on analytics and data does not swing the pendulum too far, that we begin to lose sight of the other skills and attributes that are essential to effective management, leadership, and contribution to ongoing business success.
CEOs, countries, customers, and students are all looking for creativity, let's not try to respond simply armed with spreadsheets.