Why people analytics may be the best thing that ever happened to your company and its workforce
This article was published on HR.com at the first. https://www.hr.com/en/magazines/all_articles/people-analytics-enhancing-employee-experience_jitmx9a8.html
Technology is revolutionizing how we engage with the world – both at home and at work. In recent years, technology has given rise to a new collaborative workplace for today’s knowledge worker – where data, workflows and devices connect co-workers located on the next floor or across continents.
To optimize human performance in this data-driven and highly distributed work environment, “management by walking around” is quickly being replaced by new more sophisticated means of performance management known as people analytics. Today’s knowledge workers’ tools of the trade are computers – work stations, PCs and mobile devices – and business systems, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, as well as Microsoft Office applications.
Via people analytics, individual and work group digital output is measured and analyzed to understand productivity trends and traps. Sophisticated software automates the collection of the digital signals that an employee emits – and combines them with powerful analytics that equip senior executives with reporting and analysis to make better decisions around their biggest investment – their workforce.
For organizations in the Knowledge Worker era, their workforce can comprise up to 85% of their total expenses. These employees are the core drivers of value, driving processes including from interacting with customers in sales processes, to facilitating mortgage approvals, to ensuring orders/complaints are successfully addressed.
Most companies are only realizing 60% of capacity with their workforces, and people analytics offers companies a valuable tool to close that gap. By improving workforce utilization by 1 hour a day per employee, a large company with over 5,000 employees can recoup up to $400 million a year. The technology also addresses additional corporate objectives, including driving improved employee engagement, reducing attrition, improving processes, and increasing value from outsourced engagements.
Dispelling the Myths Around People Analytics
Analytics has given us the means to quantify our world. Thanks to the wearable fitness band/watch trend, we now know how many steps we take and how many calories we burn. People analytics brings these same types of analytics into the workplace to drive productivity and profitability – so why is it that the concept is unnerving to so many?
Oftentimes the words “Big Brother” are paired with people analytics. The Orwellian concept looms large in many cases because the world of work as we know it is moving very fast and there is a fear of the role of technology and its overreach into personal boundaries. We worry about whether our employer is overstepping its bounds and infringing on our rights to privacy.
However, as use of people analytics becomes more pervasive, its role becomes better understood – not as a means of employee invasiveness but as an enabler on many fronts – both for organizations and for employees.
Getting the right perspective on people analytics starts with the understanding of what the technology is and what it is not. People analytics monitors work patterns and general activity – which is different from surveillance. The technology provides a 360-degree view of how employees spend their time at work, and where bottlenecks and distractions arise that prevent employees from giving their best effort. This can be a poor manager that is crippling morale and engagement, an excessive amount of meetings that prevent employees getting things done, or time-consuming processes (much like the infamous “TPS Report” made famous by the movie Office Space.)
The technology can be seen as a boon to employees because it removes office politics for performance management by providing a subjective measurement. Many employees – especially today’s next generation Millennial employees enjoy seeing how they stack rank against their peers and they like to get the immediate and constant feedback – i.e. how am I doing in tracking to goals and expectations?
Looking Out for the Employee
Health and wellness experts caution that sitting for excessively long periods of time is a risk factor for early death. Are your employees taking enough breaks? Or are your best performers headed for burn out? People analytics can provide data to help detect stress fractures and points of failure in the organization – perhaps a team’s performance is dropping due to poor management, or one poor performing employee is not pulling their weight, heaping additional work and responsibilities on additional. Maybe the company needs to hire more employees because existing staff are working to capacity and overwhelmed with their workload?
People Analytics can also help identify specific training needs to enable employees to gain new skills essential to excel in their career; this is one of the best investments a company can make for its employees.
Many people analytics packages also allow employees to themselves be beacons or sensors. For example, employees can indicate when they are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed and companies can then take proactive measures to resolve these issues before they become large-scale problems. This can go a long way in ensuring the workplace is really listening and responding to the needs of its employees.
Enabling Progressive HR Policies
People analytics provides a data-driven performance management framework that is helping companies adopt new ways of working that offer employees greater work-life flexibility such as work-from-home, contingent labor and flexi timing. More and more workers – especially Millennials – want to work from home or to at least have flex-time options for greater flexibility and a better work/life balance.
According to the latest US Census, 3.7 million employees already work from home, and regular telecommuting has grown 115% since 2005. Per Gallup’s State of American Workplace, 53% of employees say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and better wellbeing is important to them, and 51% of employees say, if the option presents itself, they’ll switch to a job that allows them to work from home, while 37% say they’ll switch to a job that allows them to work off-site at least part of the time.
Yet, some employers still fear work-from-home options. But people analytics data proves work-from-home productivity loss is unsubstantiated. After analyzing +500,000 hours of data around work trends and patterns, we found work-from-home employees spend on average 2 more hours per day working on projects than their work-in-office counterparts. And work-from-home employees spend +1.8 hours/day more focused ‘core time’ per day as compared to their work-in-office colleagues.
Employee Engagement: The Ultimate Perk
As work as we know it, continues to morph and change dramatically, one thing remains constant: man’s (and woman’s) search for meaning in the workplace. One of the biggest factors driving employee engagement is the nature of work, i.e., the type of work, how meaningful it is, and how does the work align with the personal goals of each employee. A company can have best of the facilities, free food, and other benefits, but if the quality of the work is not good, then the best and most growth-oriented employees will leave the company. Deloitte has conducted focused research on this issue, finding that 96% of employees surveyed want meaningful work and rate it more important than salary, and that 42% of respondents who have been seeking new employment believe their job does not make good use of their skills and abilities.
As it continues to become a key enabling technology in the workplace, people analytics can aid both workers and the workplace by ensuring an optimal match of workloads with human skills and talent. In this way both employees and the organization – can achieve their full potential.
Brad Killinger is the CEO of Sapience Analytics, a pioneer and leader in the people analytics sector, that is helping companies blaze new trails in workplace wellness and productivity via automated capture and inferencing of work trends rather than any external or subjective people data.
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