Mar 302017

Everything is Data, Part II – Get Those Expenses In

Everything is Data, Part II – Get Those Expenses In

My friend and former colleague Angela Baldonero (used to run our People Team at Return Path, now is COO of super cool startup Procurify), used to say about her job as head of HR, “Everything is Data.”  She guest blogged about that principle on OnlyOnce years ago here , and she particularly cited this theory when talking about the recruiting and hiring process.

I’ve thought about this principle a lot over the years, and I’ve occasionally come up with other examples where I think peripheral data can inform whether or not an employee will succeed, at least in my world.  I don’t know how many of these can be caught in an interview process, but that’s worth thinking about.  Here’s one for today’s post:  I’ve noticed a very high correlation over the years between poor performance and being late turning in expenses.

I know, it sounds silly.  But think about it.  Most of the work we do involves some level of being organized, being on time, prioritizing work and working efficiently, and caring about money (whether the company’s money or our own money).  Someone who can’t bother to fill out a quick expense report following a business trip is demonstrating an absence of all of those traits.  The most glaring example of it we ever had here involved a fairly senior sales executive years ago who was delinquent in his expenses to the tune of over $40,000.  That’s right, $40,000.  It was so bad that our auditors made us footnote it in our annual audit.  We begged him to turn in his expenses.  We even offered to have him send a pile of all the receipts to us and have someone in Accounting help him out.  But he was always too busy, made too many excuses for why he couldn’t get them done.  I think it ended up taking us firing him for him to actually clean them up and get paid back.  Why did we fire him?  He was ineffective in his role, unresponsive to colleagues, unable to prioritize his work, and sloppy in his deliverables.

By the way, the opposite is not true – someone who is incredibly punctual about getting expenses in is not guaranteed to be a high performer, although they are usually guaranteed to at least be organized (which for some roles may be a critical success factor).

I suppose ultimately this is just another example of Broken Windows, which I blogged about in two different places, here and here.