With the inexorable rise of digital technologies in the workplace, organisations now have the ability to capture, store and process vast amounts of information. This data can provide huge insights into the people that work with the company. From analysing shift patterns and sickness trends to understanding individual employee skillsets and strengths, organisations now have almost endless information at their fingertips.
With this deluge of data, comes an opportunity that can’t be ignored. Businesses must put an emphasis utilising this invaluable information. As the most highly rated commodity of the 21stcentury, organisations must prioritise the use of data to inform the decisions that will deliver the highest value from employees.
However, HR and people teams are often caught up in the complex web of data technology solutions. Many organisations need to stop and ask some simple questions. What do we need to understand about our organisation and people? How can technology help improve the employee experience and workforce performance? And what technology is right for us?
Introducing People Science
Data and it’s potential for insight can transform a business; understanding its implications can lead to improved efficiency and productivity and more informed business insights. But to have real and long-lasting results, the focus needs to be on smart data, not big data.
This argument is central to the concept of People Science – a data-driven approach to understanding the interactions between people, their behaviours, organisational systems and performance. People Science enables companies to extract actionable knowledge from people data so they can make better people decisions.
The key phrase is ‘actionable knowledge’. It is so much more than simply gathering and reviewing data. It is aboutunderstanding people and their behaviours within the context of business goals and strategy. It’s knowing how to attract, engage, develop and retain critical talent.
People Science is not just the domain of large, multi-national organisations. It has relevance and value to organisations of any type or size, as long as you startwith accurate and relevant people data – a ‘single source of truth’. Experience has shown that companies implementing a people management solution, populating just 20 data fields for each employee, can gain a single view of the truth on important issues such as headcount, resourcing, diversity and succession planning – a huge advantage for organisations, for a relatively light lift.
The business case for investment
Many organisations have a range of people management technologies but too often these systems are siloed and organisations don’t have a unified view of how employees are performing. According to a recent research report, only 34% of companies are currently using data and analytics for making people decisions.
In many cases, a lack of analytical skills in HR teams is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome for businesses starting out on their People Science journeys. Securing investment for people analytics software can also be a challenge in a function that has traditionally been undervalued and under-resourced.
To overcome this, the key is demonstrating the size of the opportunity and quantifying the costs to the organisation of people issues such as attraction, performance, retention and attrition. For example, take the impact of employee attrition – both voluntary and involuntary. While it will vary hugely by position and organisation, studies have suggested that it can be quite significant. One recent study put the cost of attrition at 21.4 percent of an employee’s annual salary. This includes the cost of recruiting and training a replacement, as well as the hours of productivity lost as the new employee gets up to speed.
Companies investing in People Science are seeing real business results. Recent research found companies with the highest levels of people analytics report 82 percent higher three-year average profitthan their low-maturity counterparts.
The employee case for investment
People Science technology alone will not solve an organisation’s people issues. Organisations need to act on the information gained from the data, using this actionable knowledge to improve organisational performance, and enhance the employee experience. Use the data to listen to employees, feed back to them, act on this information and improve. It’s a continuous cycle.
Too often organisations can be preoccupied with other business priorities that they neglect the employee experience. In fact, almost half (47 per cent) of respondents in a survey said they’d never been asked by their employer how they could improve their working experiences. And only 12 percent were asked on a regular basis.
Engaging your employees is more than Pizza Fridays or any other ’nice-to-have’. It’s about listening and truly connecting with their pain points with goal of improving their experience. Using People Science, businesses can effectively measure and improve the employee experience which in turn improves employee engagement. Better engagement improves performance and productivity, and this improves business results. Put simply, engaging your employees drives business growth.
Without this engagement, the value gained from People Science is limited or at best unrepresentative. With engagement, the benefits to an organisation can be truly transformative – technology, data and people working in harmony to extract actionable knowledge and deliver long-lasting organisational benefits.
Tony Lehner –People Director, Sage Asia Pacific