The Manila Times

‘Data is important, but facts are more important’

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management. Chat your management issue with him on Facebook, LinkedIn or X (Twitter), or email or via httpsZ//


AIICHI Ohno, the creator of the Toyota Production System, is credited with that one-point lesson. It’s a derivative of what many of us learned from American genius W. Edwards Deming said, “In God we trust. All others must bring data.” But Ohno emphasized that not all data are believable.

We must do that, especially in this age of disinformation and misinformation.

We’ve got to ensure that facts are current, independent and truthful. Managers must go the extra mile by asking the following questionsZ Is it the latest information? Is it done and vetted by an objective observer? Is it contrasted with other relevant data?

In human resources, we often use turnover and absenteeism rates as two basic measurements to determine the motivational level of the workforce. The higher the number of voluntary resignations, unscheduled absences and tardiness, the lower the motivation level of the workers.

Those are data points. They are very important for management. But we don’t have to stop at that. We’ve got to determine the facts. If we have a high attrition rate, what does it mean? Facts will tell you the complete picture. This week, I was consulted by a client who wanted to discover the reasons behind the high rate of their employees’ voluntary resignations, unscheduled absences and tardiness.

I told them the best way to do that was to find the answer where the problem was created. They must come out with the latest information. The HR department, as an objective and competent body, can do that. If HR is not doing it as a matter of monthly routine, then you’ve got a complex problem.

Assuming that HR knows what it’s doing, the next step is to understand where the biggest issues are coming from, starting with the department with the most alarming numbers. This information must be given to the concerned department head, and a copy must be furnished to the chief executive officer.

Root causes

If Ohno said that “data is important, but facts are more important,” then I must say that toxic bosses and low pay are some of the important facts we should know. Facts differ from one organization to another. At times, low pay and perks are the number one reason. Even if that happens, I’ve seen longtime employees stay with their bosses because they’re too kind and friendly.

If an organization can’t afford to pay competitive salaries to people, they make it up by being kind and respectful to their workers. These managers help their workers by coaching them on how to do a good job and, at the same time, helping them achieve their career ambitions, if not with the same organization but somewhere else.

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic and a successful businessman, wrote in 2014 that managers must “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.” It’s all about employee training, and if it’s done successfully, it has the purest effect of retaining them in the long term.

Even if people don’t resign their jobs, the result will still be beneficial if and when they apply what they have learned about how to do a good job.

Toxic boss

While we acknowledge that both data and facts are important at different levels and phases, the real issue is that we really don’t know the difference. For some people, even corporate managers, are struggling to define and maximize their full potential. Worse, they ignore them all. If not, they want quick wins.

But that’s not the way it goes. Patience is key. If you want quick wins and you’re trying to solve the problem of a toxic boss who is the cause of the high attrition rate, then go ahead and tell him the inconvenient truth. Depending on the personality of a toxic boss, you may want to give him a head start about your findings, but don’t be persuaded not to inform the chief executive officer.

You can be diplomatic with your findings. But involve the CEO in how to proceed with managing a toxic boss with your recommendation, which doesn’t do any favor. Give them the chance to redeem themselves. Chance is the deciding factor before making an unfavorable judgment. You’ll be amazed to discover that, over time, you can’t really separate data from facts.

Look at the medical profession. Doctors can’t treat a case without a patient’s data and facts. Contrast that with politicians who don’t need both data and facts.

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The Manila Times