How to use data to inform your people strategy

by
Pritama Sarkar
October 18, 2021
3 MIN READ
How to use data to inform your people strategy

A recent survey of our customers’ most pressing problems revealed some interesting yet unsurprising insights — most HR professionals believe that gathering better data around their employees’ wellbeing should be the top priority. 

That doesn’t mean human emotions, needs, and fears are reduced to mere data points; on the contrary, it means that organisations are willing to listen. They want to know how their people are faring, what their concerns are, and make data-driven business decisions to support the growth and wellbeing of their workforce.

Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.”
Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft.
Extracted from The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?

Regardless of size or function, organisations worldwide are trying to bring back a sense of normalcy after a year and a half of uncertainty and disruptions. It's high time to start collecting real-time data to understand how your employees are coping with the big transition and how it affects their outlook when it comes to work situations, the company’s purpose, vision, and values. 

And, not just any data. Data that reflects your own organisation; that will help you shape, fortify, and continually optimise your people strategy. Data that helps you cut through the smokescreen of what you think employees need and focus on what they actually see as necessary.

And to not only measure and assess but to bring about real change. To show your employees that you listen and care.

For greater visibility and impact

Job characteristics (81%) and work environment (53%) are the biggest reasons for voluntary turnover.

Source

HR must be the eyes and ears of the business — you are assigned the monumental task of inspiring and activating the workforce, ensuring the culture and processes meet their emotional and psychosocial requirements, and at the same time, demonstrating the correlation between engaged employees and profitability.

You are in a unique position to drive business transformation with management buy-in if you can show hard data to support your strategy. Not only will it help you promote cross-organisational transparency, but it will also help spell out how HR initiatives connect to the overall financial business objectives.

Quantifying the qualitative values

76% of company value is attributed to employees.

Source

There’s a shift in the wind. The soft values that were previously deemed too soft to measure or tie to revenue are now being quantified, thanks to the digitalisation and advancement in HR tech. The qualitative values that were good to have before are a must-have now, with companies altering their entire people and HR strategy to focus on the needs and concerns of the workforce and to guide them instead of managing their time and output.

It’s not only managing the human resources that matters; it’s also how humane your employee experience is.

As the torchbearer of company culture and values, you need a systematic process for executing, scaling, and measuring the impact of your people strategy.

Data gives you direction

A long term people strategy gives everyone a collective vision and the steps to reach that vision, one milestone at a time. But it's still important to pay attention to what's directly in front of your feet. You need the power of real-time data to identify the issues that need immediate attention to ensure red flags don't become a part of your culture.

For instance, let’s take a look at the following long term goals:

1. Goal: To reduce employee turnover.

Break down that goal into doable, actionable pieces by taking a data-driven approach to figure out how many people are quitting, where the highest turnover risk is, why they are leaving, and how to prevent it. Typically, leaders need to work with HR to determine the triggers, which can be several factors including career growth, compensation, lack of personal development, tenure, disengagement, unclear communication, or a sense of futility.

Timely data can shine a light on hidden grievances or an elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. Tools that use cognitive technologies such as machine learning can analyse millions of data points to even identify at-risk employee groups and suggest immediate measures. Winningtemp’s Smart Prediction is one such example. Armed with relevant data, you can adapt your short term strategy to focus efforts on the right things, which ultimately helps you shape the long term strategy.


2. Goal: Boost employee wellbeing.

Wellbeing is usually (and rightfully so) on the top of the agenda when it comes to HR initiatives. However, it’s a subjective topic, as what constitutes wellbeing for a particular group or individuals isn’t necessarily the same for the others. So how do you know for sure what wellbeing means to your people? The answer is simple - gather data.

As an actionable short term goal, start by providing your employees with a safe, anonymous way to voice their concerns, thoughts, and ideas. Actively listen and follow up with them without jeopardising their anonymity, especially after organisation-wide policy changes. Their feedback and the overall sentiment data should inform your long term strategy and values.

Finding the focus of your people strategy

People strategy translates the organisation’s business objectives, vision, and mission into actionable HR initiatives and programs to set the plan in motion.

As Sara Holmberg, Head of HR at Winningtemp explains, “Start by asking yourself: Where are we as a company? Where are we going? Your people strategy must be in sync with the company vision, mission, values, desired behaviour, and the overall business strategy."

This clarity of vision will help you cut through the noise and concentrate on the right things.

One of the key factors that help set the direction for your strategy is the phase of the company — the maturity of the company determines the organisational structure, budget, business objectives, and with that, the HR focus.

A few example scenarios about how HR focus areas can differ according to overarching business objectives:

As the organisation evolves, so does your people strategy. However, there’s one factor that remains constant throughout the evolution nurturing a positive and inclusive employee experience.

As Rahat Joshi, People Scientist at Winningtemp describes it so aptly,

“Employee experience is the heart of the people strategy.”

“To me, literally every aspect of one’s work life adds up to their employee experience starting from their day-to-day interactions with the leaders to a sense of pride they feel while talking about their employer”.

The lion’s share of the responsibility falls on HR to engineer the process and ensure that the core of people strategy remains constant - to build a purpose-driven employee experience.

Adding AI and people analytics to the mix

57% of those using AI in HR are looking to improve their employee experience.

Source

According to Gartner, “AI-based solutions can drive faster, easy-to-use HR services and help HR functions develop new personalization strategies to engage the technology-enabled workforce and improve employee performance”.

However, in an episode of the McKinsey Podcast, McKinsey partner Bryan Hancock points out that the vast majority of organisations are still doing “basic reporting-type analytics” instead of really digging into the available data:

The question is, how many companies are going beyond that basic reporting, basic analytics, to using some of the bigger data sets, to using advanced computing power, and combining those data sets with well-proven academic theory on what really drives performance in an organization? How many organizations are using that at the next frontier? Very, very few.”

Are there tools that can help you access these data sets? Sure, but how do you know what to measure? And even if you’ve collected the required data, how do you utilise it to actually make a difference?

You need to measure what matters. And that’s exactly what people analytics helps you do.

People analytics is a combination of quantitative data and qualitative insights that allows you to not only collect but also use the data.

A wide variety of HR tools provide you with GDPR complaint employee data that requires a certain level of experience and analytical skills to understand, act, and create a sustainable framework to measure the KPIs continuously.

However, you need the qualitative insights to answer the ‘why’ why your employees feel the way they do. This data helps you dress the KPIs with substance, identify the engagement drivers, and utilise the employee feedback to optimise your strategy and make informed decisions.

People analytics helps you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting the right people, taking inventory of and managing skills gaps, determining culture fit, and working with issues that impact employees’ engagement. It gives you access to a treasure trove of crucial insights to explore untapped opportunities, to find out why your people leave, and, more importantly, why they decide to stay.

According to CIPD, a people analytics strategy should have three aims:

  • Connect people data with business data to inform business leaders and help them make decisions.
  • Enable HR leaders to use insights from analytics to design and implement appropriate HR activities.
  • Measure HR’s effectiveness in delivering against its objectives.

Experienced People teams scan the entire employee lifecycle to gather and study relevant metrics to find opportunities, identify champions, and work actively towards providing a positive employee experience. There are multiple KPIs to measure and optimise your people strategy - starting from garden-variety HR performance metrics to calculating ROI against each employee.

However, if you’re in the initial stage of developing and testing your people strategy, you might want to start with measuring the following people analytics metrics to analyse and improve your employee experience:

Wrapping it up

If the recent employee exodus has taught us something, it’s that employees are asking for a drastic change a change from dated policies and rigid conventions that hold them back instead of allowing them to thrive. And you need to be armed with the right gear to listen and bring about the long-awaited change.

Gathering enough employee data shouldn’t be the end goal; you must work with the available data to understand where your employee sentiment is heading, and how you can help them reach their full potential. That’s where people analytics play a huge role in elevating your people strategy to prepare for the future of work and to build a culture that strives for excellence but also encourages empathy and understanding.

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