Bring meaning to your numbers

Let’s say you have carefully calculated data to convey in helping your audience make a choice. If your audience is not full of statisticians, you may want to recast the presentation in terms of THEIR interests.

Mercer is one of the world’s largest HR consulting firms, offering a wide variety of services. One service area relates to “global mobility” – moving managers and executives from country to country. It’s surprisingly complicated – and expensive.

I was recently invited to help describe how cost-of-living indices are calculated for global expatriates. Because there are variations in philosophy, calculation comparisons, and regional pricing, the overall descriptions can be confusing and hard to follow. Mercer needed Visual Translations’ help in explaining 17 pages of single-spaced type that described six different (yet related) cost-of-living methodologies.

Index calculations

Obviously, that’s a lot of granular detail. As a first cut in the visualization process, we created a decision tree to make it easier for sales prospects in the audience to understand their choices. It turned out that making that first “sort” made the other pieces easier to identify.

The first question for an employer is whether you assume either that (a) all expatriates regardless of where they live, spend their money the same way; or (b) expatriates’ country of origin influences their purchasing patterns. For example, do Americans spend more on transportation and entertainment, while Italians spend more on clothes and food?

Do people spend money in exactly the same way everywhere?

Do people spend money differently by region?

Once a user resolves the first question, three more options are presented based on the mathematical comparisons between store prices for a set basket of goods. The second question has to do with the shopping habits of the expatriate and corresponding generosity of the allowance.

Calculation assumptions yield different compensation results.

Finally, reasons for choosing one index over another are described to help viewers make the best selection for THEIR circumstances.

Here is a link to the complete online animation of cost of living adjustment alternatives.