Marketing Manager, Montara Inc.
Covid-19 dramatically disrupted the way we work. Today’s workplaces are more dynamic, with change happening faster than ever before. In order to succeed in this new world, organizations are increasingly realizing that they need to have a more powerful real-time understanding of their employees. But while marketing, sales, operations and other business units all have the real-time insights capabilities they need to effectively operate and make decisions, HR is the only department that does not have access to continuous, data-driven insights to inform and support decision making.
The World of Work Has Changed
The pandemic and the severe long-term disruptions it has caused have completely altered how work gets done. In particular, office closures led to the normalization of remote and hybrid working, making us more disconnected than ever before. Employees have had to adapt to a completely different way of working, finding new methods to communicate and collaborate online using digital tools. The lack of face-to-face contact poses unprecedented challenges to people management, so managers too have had to adapt the ways they manage their team members remotely.
In addition, work-life balance issues have been brought to the forefront. The transition to remote or hybrid work has blurred the lines between work and personal life. Digital communication platforms can lead to increased interruptions, and the requirement for frequent video meetings can cause a specific form of exhaustion known as “Zoom fatigue.” Moreover, there are now fewer opportunities for social support through work, so many employees feel less connected and engaged in this new world of work.
For better or worse, the digitalization of the workplace is accelerating at its fastest rate ever. The success of this transition, judged by the impact it has on employees’ wellbeing and productivity, will come down to how effectively it is managed.
HR will play a central role in supporting organizations as they adapt to the new world of work. In the post-pandemic era, it is up to HR to propel organizations forward, as it is now a key stakeholder in the strategic decision-making process, providing visibility and understanding of the key issues, trends, and people challenges within the business. To effectively manage the distributed post-pandemic workforce, the need for accurate people insights is more acute than ever before. This requires analysis of people data flowing through the organization and the utilization of powerful new technologies (such as machine learning and AI) to transform the data into insights and actionable recommendations for employee management – the “people insights” approach.
Traditional HR Approaches Are No Longer Enough
The need for organizations to get data-driven insights into their people has never been more crucial. Indeed, a survey by Deloitte showed that more than three-quarters of organizations aspire to an effective people insights HR strategy, but fewer than one in five has succeeded in putting it into practice. Instead, many organizations are still using the same cumbersome and outdated approaches to understand their employees and teams.
The two most common methods are employee engagement surveys and sophisticated business intelligence (BI) tools, both of which are fraught with issues. Employee engagement surveys are burdensome for both analysts and respondents and they must be sent infrequently (generally once every six months) as they tend to introduce friction into the organization. The responses provide a snapshot view of a single point in time, and therefore surveys are not suitable for supporting continued decision-making months later, when the situation may have changed. Many employees either do not respond due to the length of the survey, because they are worried that their responses are not truly anonymous or because they believe management will do nothing with the results. The responses that are gathered might be biased for the same reasons. Finally, another issue is that the data from surveys tend to be aggregated and is only accessible to a limited group of people, typically executives and HR leaders.
Likewise, business intelligence (BI) tools that capture data to produce people analytics dashboards are limited in various ways. They suffer from the same “rear-view mirror” approach, taking old point-in-time data to inform their daily decision-making in an ever-changing business climate. BI dashboards provide aggregated insights, making it more difficult to understand which strategies will be most effective for various teams and individual employees. These tools are also complex to use, require expensive trained analysts and do not scale to the whole organization.
For all these reasons and more, employee engagement surveys and BI tools are not suitable for managing employees on a day-to-day basis. Instead, employers should seek to implement solutions that provide real-time, continuous, dynamic people insights that are personalized and customizable to everyone in the organization.
What People Insights Brings to the Table
The rate of change in the modern workplace is faster than ever before. To keep pace with this change, it is imperative that organizations find new ways of understanding their people. They must harness opportunities provided by the digitalization of the workplace for data-driven, personalized, relevant and timely insight into their people. This is made possible through the masses of data that organizations already collect, but unfortunately many lack the expertise to know how best to utilize it. To fully realize the value of information flowing through the organization and make better decisions, companies must transform their approach to people data.
The people insights approach does not seek to do away with employee engagement surveys and BI tools, rather, it aims to create a system where all elements come together so that employees can thrive and leaders can make everyday people decisions with confidence. By bringing together the vast tranches of data that already exist into a single platform, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied to generate real-time insights into employees and their behavior. The data can be automatically and continuously analyzed to help organizations extract valuable insights which can be transformed into informed people decisions.
In this way, organizations can go from the static, point-in-time insights generated using traditional HR tools to real-time insights that are customized and available to everyone. This will have benefits at multiple layers of the organization:
- HR Professionals get live updates on critical people issues as they develop (e.g., low employee engagement, poor retention, diversity and leadership) to be resolved more quickly than ever before. They get a detailed view of the organization, from the big picture down to the team-level, with driver analysis and the ability to slice and dice the data easily.
- Executives keep their finger on the pulse of their organization with smart alerts in real-time and decision support enabling insights. Allowing them to quickly address people management needs while improving engagement, retention, wellbeing and more.
- Managers get visibility and personalized recommendations on key team metrics such as team engagement, wellbeing and productivity, so they can build healthy successful teams. Personalized leadership insights enable managers to grow into leaders and fulfill their potential.
- Employees receive customized insights to help on everything from cognitive load and workload, wellbeing, relationship building and career growth. To help them to proactively maintain their wellbeing, grow their career and improve their satisfaction and belonging at work.
The seismic effects of the pandemic – geographical dislocation, collaboration challenges, wellbeing issues, the Great Resignation, accelerating rate of change and more – have made the modern workplace an incredibly complex place to navigate. Existing outdated tools such as employee engagement surveys and BI tools are no longer enough. With organizations increasingly demanding HR to provide visibility and guidance at all times, the need for HR to be data-driven and real-time has risen significantly. To accomplish this, organizations must transform the way they approach data, and recognize the value of an HR strategy centered around frictionless people insights.
Danielle David is the Marketing Manager at Montara, where she is driving organizational growth and profitability with her strategic leadership skills.