Visualisation – the new future of reward data presentation?

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Introduction

I am a firm believer in serendipity so I quickly picked up on an article in PCPro magazine on the subject of data visualisation.  Wikipedia defines data visualisation as “According to Friedman (2008) the “main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means”.    When I explored the area in more detail I found a wealth of data visualization tools on the internet.  The graphic above is a data visualisation of my four hundred odd LinkedIn contacts.  My next thought was how could this be applied to reward?

Visualisation of reward data

The first major area that could use the visualisation approach is global market data.  How many times have we reward professionals had to present international reward data; often in forms of rows of tabular data.  Would it not be so much better if we could produce a visualisation of the global data?  This could show geo-mapped data at one level or perhaps by industry sector or level of employee.  There are many interesting permutations to explore. 

I have seen a number of interesting info graphics around UK pension data; this can be both a source of data rich information as well as being pretty impenetrable when presented again as tabulated number or on a PowerPoint presentation.  Data visualisation could help immensely in communicating key data to management and employees.

Interactive data presentation

One step further on from just visualising data is to make it interactive so managers can set their own parameters for looking at the data.   I came across one visualisation tool that took your favourite book or musician and produced an info-graphic of similar styles and types.  Could something similar be used for flexible benefits?  The employee could drill down the visualisation of options to help make the choice of benefit and level a much more exciting journey than the normal drop down lists.

Mission to explain – the reward narrative

Those of you who read my blog will know that I have a mission to explain and communicate the reward narrative.  To open up the black box of our profession and put tools in the hands of users so that instead of reward saying “here it is, take it or leave it” we realise that most of our employees are sophisticated consumers of our reward products and are capable of making informed choices if we present those choices in an intuitive and interesting way.

Conclusion

Data visualisation is not new although it is entering a new level of usability as computes become more powerful and the increasing use of tablets lead to a more visually intensive world – not to mention the alleged shorting of attention span in our internet world.

Data visualisation is, in my view, an important tool in increasing the power and relevance of our reward narrative – and it can be quite fun as well. 

  

Reward and Rock and Roll

ImageWhat are the similarities between reward and rock and roll?  At first glance not very much.  But the pending publication of Peter Cook’s new book “The music of business” got me thinking.  I first came across Peter when I undertook the creativity and innovation module of my MBA.  He was leading an improvised jam session to demonstrate the application of techniques of innovation and creativity.  I have, and still do, find his approach to business strategy meaningful, impactful and most of all, fun. 

Peter Cook is a polymath.  An unusual man who straddles several different “worlds” and not only brings them together but is able to translate and communicate the lessons from one field in to other fields of his expertise.  He is a gifted musician, educator consultant and social media expert.  A real renaissance man.

What has this to do with the world of reward?  There are many lessons from the world of rock and roll that could be applied in reward (albeit at a somewhat lower volume).  If we take creativity and innovation we see the examples of David Bowie and Kylie Minogue who constantly reinvent their persona to meet current tastes and trends.  We in reward need to constantly reinvent our products, communications and approaches to meet the demands of our challenging client base not to mention the changing agendas of regulators and rule makers.

To me, a large part of reward is the communication of our message.  Rock stars (or perhaps their management) are masters at segmenting their audience and thus their customers by all the normal demographics such as age and country. They then communicate short, impactful messages about the products they have produced to sell to their chosen demographic. We also need to segment our client base so we can provide meaningful products and messages to get the best bang for our buck.  I use the Prato rule – 80% of our impact will come from 20% of our communication.  Getting that 20% right will make the difference in our reward space between success and failure.

Leadership is another key area in which Peter is a specialist.  The lessons in product, strategy and marketing leadership in the face of changing environments, technologies and fashions by the rock industry (look at the move from CD’s to MP3’s)  can be usefully and creativity learned and applied to our own fields.  I have written before on how social media is going to not only change the way we communicate our message but will change the very products that we offer our clients.

I am a strong believer in using creativity in my reward work.  Part of creativity is being willing to move outside our comfort zone, outside our normal models of thinking and open ourselves to the unexpected.  Peter Cook’s new book and his general approach is about exactly that.  It is about moving outside the normal MBA approaches to business and to look to other industries and ways of doing business to allow us to think creativity about both our day to day activities but also about wider issues of strategy formulation – and perhaps to do it in a fun and interesting way.   Now where did I put my Stratocaster?