01st Mar, 2020 Read time 5 minutes

The Insanity of Vanity Metrics, How to Measure What Matters

There is no shortage of data available to EHS professionals. But when you’re flooded with information, it can be challenging to decide what metrics are worth tracking. By asking the right questions you can hone in on the metrics that will steer your business to operational excellence.

Given the proliferation of data and the new analytical tools designed to pull insights from it, you might think the measurement of Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) performance has greatly improved. Unfortunately, that is not always so. Too frequently, you find companies or EHS functions that simply measure the wrong things.

Focusing on metrics that are imperfect or not meaningful can have serious impact, leading management to make ill-informed decisions that hurt the business. Usually the root cause lies in companies sticking to historical metrics that measure what was possible to track when they were created, not what should have been measured.

Given the payoff for getting metrics right, there is a true imperative for companies to reconsider what matters to their business and how best to measure that. With new types of data easily accessible for analysis, including Artificial Intelligence and machine learning techniques, companies have an opportunity to understand their real EHS performance much more deeply.

Many organizations and EHS functions have embraced the chance to identify the higher-fidelity metrics that will tune their EHS performance going forward. A high percentage continue to rely on injury rates, absenteeism and other lagging metrics despite the growing acceptance of the fact that these failure-focused measures are ineffective in driving continuous improvement efforts.

With data everywhere it’s easy not to be able to see the wood for the trees. Developing a measurement framework is a way to add structure to your data and to really focus on the metrics that matter. After all, operational excellence is not just about producing results; good process metrics can help us understand how good results are produced.

Measurement frameworks are a way of structuring metrics and those all-important key performance indicators (KPIs) around the EHS strategy, goals, and objectives of the business. The significant thing about a measurement framework is that it’s coherent and helps your function and the business at large to understand the relationship between the metrics as well as the metrics themselves.

To develop a framework, you need to determine the metrics that are pertinent to your organization at this point in time, it’s not a one size fits all and metrics need to align with what is important to the business.


Start with asking the right questions:

  • What factors matter most to the company’s EHS performance?
  • Have we analyzed if those factors fully leverage current data and advanced analytic techniques?
  • Do your metrics tell you what you are doing well and what you need to be doing to drive positive performance?
  • Do your metrics indicate whether you are doing the right things?
  • Do you rely on multiple metrics across different processes to get an instant view of your overall EHS performance?
  • Which metrics could better reflect the actual performance in areas that matter?
  • Can these metrics be accurately measured?
    • Have we established an internal performance baseline against which to compare future results?
    • Do we know how competitors perform on these metrics and how our results compare with theirs?
    • Relative to one another, how important are each of these metrics, and how do we balance them?


After identifying and beginning to focus on the right metrics, it’s crucial that you ensure your EHS solution is up to the task to create a framework that enables you to measure what matters to your business and has the flexibility to change those measures as you mature and grow your business. If you find yourself locked into a fixed framework, seek out an objective partner one that understands that working within a walled garden doesn’t always paint a full picture. Independence is imperative for an unbiased view.

Remember, it’s a crowded field. If you’re not sure which metrics to use, or whom to trust to provide it, rely on an experienced vendor to guide the way. Homing in on the right metrics — and finding the right partners to provide it — will play a big role in your EHS success.


Key Tips to Determine What Matters for Your Organization

You’ll need to:

  • Design measurement frameworks to reveal which metrics can be tied directly to operational excellence — and which aren’t worth the effort.
  • Ensure you are analyzing actual lift rather than correlated metrics, so you can be confident that you are identifying the metrics that actually make a difference.
  • Invest in the right software that gives you a holistic view of all your EHS efforts.
  • Find a good partner who’s well-versed in advanced EHS measurement, and the various data types and metrics. It’s a complex landscape to traverse, so make sure you enlist help if you need it.


For more information on SAI Global and to find out more about how you can hone in on the right metrics, head to their website by clicking here.


About the Author:

Christine Adeline, VP Product Management, EHS Risk at SAI Global

An established Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) software specialist, Christine has held a variety of positions with some of the largest organizations in the EHS software space. She has more than 14 years’ experience in implementation and project management and has been a key advisor in helping organization gain operational excellence. Christine has an enviable knowledge of the EHS software industry and its vision for the future. As part of the EHS senior leadership team at SAI Global, Christine drives the innovation strategy and growth of the company’s EHS offering.

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