Learning & Development, Technology

What to Do When People Analytics Present a Dead End

People analytics are ubiquitous in today’s increasingly digital-first workplaces.

The rationale is simple: People analytics, also known as HR analytics or talent analytics, provide a data-driven approach to managing people at work. For many leaders, it’s an extension of the data-driven ethos that already informs everything from customer engagement to product development, making it a natural next step for companies looking to make the most of their talented teams.

While every company uses these capabilities differently, in general, people analytics provide businesses with insights into productivity, workforce engagement, turnover rates, skills gaps, and the overall effectiveness of HR policies. They allow companies of all sizes to identify trends, forecast future scenarios, and devise strategies to boost employee satisfaction and business performance.

However, many leaders are finding that they’re overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of their internal data. One Oracle survey found that 72% of business leaders say the “sheer volume of data and their lack of trust in data” have prevented them from leveraging it to make key business decisions. Notably, 85% of business leaders have suffered from “decision distress,” guilt, or anxiety when issuing important organizational directives.

In other words, companies have abundant data, but when it comes to using that information to inform their personnel decisions, many hit a dead end. Critically, 95% of Oracle’s survey respondents say they “know this needs to change.”

One way to overcome this challenge is to leverage people analytics to identify solutions rather than diagnosing problems. This allows leaders to take a more focused, strategic approach to data analysis while prioritizing action over raw information.

Here are three problems companies can look to address with their people analytics in 2023 and beyond.

1. Employee Turnover

The Great Resignation may have subsided as a pop culture phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean your employees have stopped looking for better work opportunities.

PwC’s 2023 Hopes and Fears Global Workforce Survey found that 25% of employees expect to change jobs in the next year—a 20% year-over-year increase. At the same time, 42% of survey respondents said they would ask for a pay raise to account for inflation-related cost-of-living increases.

Additionally, many employees are looking for more competitive pay, a differentiating factor that companies can proactively appease. Examine current salary structures and how these align with factors like job performance, tenure, role, and location to identify potential pay discrepancies that can be rectified.

Rather than looking at people analytics to understand if employee turnover is a problem, strategically use the data to develop solutions even before it becomes a crisis. In this way, leaders can begin producing tangible outcomes from the deluge of data coming their way.

2. Employee Engagement

As much as employees want convenient work schedules, competitive pay, and kind coworkers, they also want to experience purpose at work. Today, engagement and purpose are inextricably linked.

For instance, PwC’s study found that employee engagement has 3.8 times more influence on an employee’s stress than work location, making how people feel about their work significantly more important than where they perform it. Similarly, when asked “If you could make one change at your current employer to make it a great place to work, what would it be?” 41% of survey participants identified “engagement and culture” as the most in need of improvement.

User behavior analytics can help identify solutions, as they provide insights into data for utilization of work tools and resources. When coupled with more personal data points like employee survey responses, feedback, and sentiments, your company can create employee engagement solutions appropriate for your company’s culture and organizational alignment.

3. Employee Productivity

Often, leaders look to people analytics to out underperforming employees. When it’s used this way, it’s no wonder leaders feel guilt and anxiety when making people-impacting decisions.

Rather than just relying on user behavior analytics and workplace optimization tools to weed out underperformers, use the technology to identify productivity bottlenecks and promote viable solutions.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the e-commerce company Shopify analyzed its internal data, finding that excessive meetings were eroding productivity and office culture. In response, the company canceled recurring group meetings, banned meetings on Wednesdays, and restricted group meetings of 50 or more people to a 6-hour window on Thursdays.

As a result, the company canceled 12,000 events from its employees’ calendars, reallocating nearly 100,000 hours toward more productive activities.

In the same way, AT&T learned that by requiring employees to include excessively detailed information in expense reports, like every attendee of a retirement or service anniversary party, the company was losing 28,500 hours of productivity every year.

In response, the telecom giant streamlined more than 160 daily tasks, collectively saving nearly 3 million hours annually.

These are just some of the ways companies can use people analytics to do more than identify underperforming employees. Any company can use this data to find better ways to do better work, helping people feel more productive, engaged, and valued in the process.

4. Proactive Solutions with People Analytics

As the digital world continues to expand, the sheer volume and complexity of data collected through people analytics can become overwhelming. However, such data can be a powerful tool if used strategically, not just to diagnose problems but also to devise proactive solutions.

Companies can anticipate and mitigate employee turnover by analyzing data related to work/life balance and pay structures. To enhance engagement, organizations should align their culture and purpose, supported by insights from user behavior analytics and employee feedback. Lastly, instead of using people analytics to single out underperformers, businesses should identify productivity bottlenecks and strategize ways to improve working practices.

If you feel like your people analytics have hit a dead end, adopting these strategies can help leverage this information to develop solutions to known problems, improving business performance and employee satisfaction in the process.

Isaac Kohen is Chief Product Officer and Founder of Teramind, a global provider of insider threat management, data loss prevention, and productivity optimization solutions powered by user behavior analytics. Serving enterprise, government, and small and midsize businesses, Teramind has provided over 10,000 organizations around the world with actionable, data-backed workforce insights that reduce risk, increase productivity, and streamline business operations.   

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