Data Will Set You Free

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Ford CEO Alan Mulally is known for starting meetings by saying “Data will set you free” and for trying to change Ford’s culture to one that is based on increased accountability, more information sharing, and hard metrics. “You can’t manage a secret,” he is also fond of saying. Although it’s not clear whether Mulally’s approach will work at Ford, which is known for its self-contained fiefdoms where little information is shared, some companies have found that managing people according to hard metrics has paid off. Consider Freescale Semiconductor, a computer chip manufacturer based in Austin, Texas.

Freescale has discovered that in order to have the right people at the right time to do the right job, it needs an extensive and elaborate set of metrics to manage its 24,000 employees in 30 countries. Of particular concern to Freescale is retention. “There’s no greater cost than human capital, especially in the technology industry,” says Jignasha Patel, Freescale’s director of global talent sourcing and inclusion. “When you’ve got a tenured employee that decides to walk out the door, it’s not just one person leaving, it’s that person’s knowledge and network and skills.”

To manage talent and prevent turnover, Freescale holds line managers accountable for recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees. To do that, managers need to project their talent needs into the future and reconcile those with projected availabilities. Patel provides line managers with census data that helps them make their projections, but at the end of the day, the responsibility is theirs. “What we have done is taken all of our inclusion data, all our metrics, and we’ve moved the accountability over to the business unit,” Patel says.

Patel also provides Freescale managers with benchmark data so they can compare their effectiveness with that of other units. The benchmark data include the number of people hired, turnovers, and promotions—and breakdowns by demographic categories. “There’s [a...
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