Just Six Numbers … for HR?

A while back, I read a wonderful book by astrophysicist Martin Rees, called “Just Six Numbers” in which he explains how six numbers determine the nature of the Universe as it exists now and why if, these numbers had been off by just a little bit, the Universe would have had very different laws and we probably would not have existed.

The six numbers that he lists are:

  1. N – This measures the strength of the forces between atoms and determines the length of time that the universe would exist.
  2. ε –  (Epsilon) – This determines how firmly atomic nuclei bind together.
  3. Ω – (Omega) – is a measure of the amount of material in our universe
  4. λ – (Lambda) – A force that controls the expansion of the universe
  5. Q – This determines the fabric of the universe – whether it would be inert, violent or a judicious middle ground as it is now.
  6. D – Number of spatial dimensions in the world (three dimensional) in our case.

Martin Rees mentions that of the six numbers, two  relate to basic forces ( ε, λ) , two fix the size and texture of the universe (N, Q) and two others fix the properties of space themselves (D,Ω).

Pretty fascinating stuff that, don’t you think?

As I got musing about these parameters, I wondered whether one could draw analogies with organizations themselves and whether there were six key numbers or metrics that would inform us about any organization from an HR perspective. Just bear with me as I work through this.

Obviously, in order to draw any analogies with the universe, we need to make certain assumptions. Here they are:

  • The Universe = Organization
  • Forces holding the universe = interactions between employees or functions/divisions within organizations. These interactions could be person to person, or hierarchical.
  • Texture of the universe –  the individuals and their types; even the types of functions/divisions etc.
  • Space = culture of the organization

Let us now assume that we are looking at 6 metrics – 2 that throw light on the viability of the organization, 2 that help to identify the size of the organization (think of these as growth metrics) and two more that look at the forces operating within the organization (think engagement here!). So here are the six that I think would make most sense.

  1. Revenue/employee (N)- This is a metric that is growth related and ensures  a connect with the overall growth while ensuring that employee numbers are not ballooning disproportionately.
  2. Profit/employee (Q) – This ensures that it is not just all about growth but viability as well since the cost of growth is factored in.
  3. Attrition Rate (D) – This metric and the net are indicative of the size of the organization.
  4. High performer turnover rate (Ω)- This metric ensures that organizations do not really lose their top talent which is essential for sustainable growth.
  5. Net Promoter Score (ε)- The answer to just a single question – “Would you recommend this organization to your friends and families”?
  6. Referral rate (λ) – This is again a measure of engagement like the NPS. People only refer employees when they genuinely like a place of work which is again an indicator of their engagement.

So there you have it. Just six numbers … for HR!

As usual, would love to hear your thoughts on these and other measures that might be equally valid!

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five − = 2

16 − = 8