How Data Gives Companies a Competitive Edge

Ben Waber of Humanyze shares how measuring workplace analytics can help your organization improve productivity, performance, and retention.

workplace analytics
Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

It comes as no surprise organizations continue to face constant, unprecedented change as a result of the pandemic. Now more than ever, business leaders must explore data-driven, employee-centric ways to navigate times of change and leave behind educated guesses or reliance on subjective opinions. Enter: workplace analytics.

All companies have massive amounts of corporate data, but most aren’t using it correctly. Savvy companies put their data to work to drive positive outcomes, like lower attrition or improved productivity, leading to greater ROI for the business and a better experience for the workforce. Embracing workplace analytics helps reveal direct correlations between workplace initiatives, decisions, or changes and how they impact different areas of a company. With today’s workplace challenges in mind, this data not only helps companies plan an effective return-to-office or hybrid work strategy that fits the unique, evolving needs of their organization, it also helps leaders drive smarter collaboration by identifying organizational behaviors and processes that truly set employees up for success. Analytics also helps executive leaders understand how changes (both internally and externally-initiated) impact overall organizational health.

There are opportunities for data to optimize the workplace by not only benefiting the company internally but granting organizations a competitive edge to set themselves apart and appeal to prospective and current employees alike. From helping companies establish internal benchmarks to measuring where different teams stand when it comes to collaboration, employee engagement, and employee satisfaction, the benefits of workplace data are endless.

Optimizing Employee Retention

We are truly in the midst of the Great Resignation. More than 4 million Americans quit their jobs every month for the last six months, according to a Job Openings and Labor Turnover report released earlier in February. This underlines the even more critical role workplace analytics must play in understanding how employee behaviors and organizational processes directly impact employee retention. These insights help HR leaders and Management adopt a tailored workforce approach that resonates with their employee culture and needs in order to keep top talent at the company.

No matter the reason, employee turnover is the most pressing issue across organizations for HR to solve, making relevant data so vital.

Many different reasons drive employees to leave their jobs whether voluntary (burnout, higher salary offers, additional growth opportunities), or involuntary (personal matters, relocation). No matter the reason, employee turnover is the most pressing issue across organizations for HR to solve, making relevant data so vital.

A recent report found management must prioritize interactions between employees and “weak connections,” as research shows they are key drivers of innovation, creativity, information sharing, employee engagement and retention. Respondents reported a “decrease in employee confidence around post-pandemic plans, transparency and communication from leadership” and the lack of objective data to inform and tailor effective strategies. Without transparent leadership, businesses risk seeing an increase in attrition, as workers will leave for better opportunities.

There are two different types of team collaboration styles, “open-door” and “closed-door” teams. These styles in and of themselves carry indicators that help predict retention or turnover. Employees on “open-door” teams are significantly more likely to stay as they tend to communicate frequently and fluidly with other team members across all hierarchical levels. “Open-door” teams feel supported, have high levels of trust and a shared understanding that builds a broad sense of synergy across the organization from top to bottom. In comparison, employees on “closed-door” teams operate in silos by communicating to the same groups of people daily and rarely communicating across teams. These employees have more focus time and may produce more in the short-term, but the teams often feel less connected to broader company culture. Workplace analytics helps organizations see signs of which of these groups its employees fall into and provide suggestions of how to manage each accordingly.

Attrition has a significant effect on a company’s bottom line by decreasing team productivity and increasing costs overall.

Attrition has a significant effect on a company’s bottom line by decreasing team productivity and increasing costs overall. Furthermore, a highly engaged workforce boosts sales, customer satisfaction and profitability margins.

Nailing Down Performance Metrics

As remote work remains or companies transition to hybrid models with dispersed teams, managers no longer easily rely on a casual drop-by at employees’ desks or conversations in the kitchen to see how their team members are doing. Every business must find a way to set goals, manage performance, and ensure major milestones and goals are met.

Pre-pandemic, an employee’s engagement could be measured by the amount of time someone spent in the office or at their desk. While this wasn’t a particularly good or healthy metric to use in the first place, it now isn’t even an option. Instead, companies use workplace analytics data to help understand the dynamics influencing performance and identify the factors driving high-performance behaviors. Comparing an organization’s current performance against benchmarks makes it easier for business leaders to see how far they’ve come, discover successful patterns or trends, and identify areas requiring further improvement.

Achieving Productivity Goals

Insights from analytics allows managers to determine employees’ level of engagement and how best to collaborate across teams. For example, collaboration data helps management make key decisions surrounding a hybrid schedule implementation – who it makes sense for, when, where, and how. By measuring how teams collaborate and work together best (via email, Zoom, Slack, etc.) combined with other key corporate insights (like performance KPI’s and employee survey data), companies can tailor a hybrid approach based on which teams rely on each other most, and which groups do their best work in-person or remotely. For example, data can reveal if the sales and product teams do their best work by collaborating in-person or if the engineering team needs more peace and quiet, preferring to be in the office with fewer other teams at a time. Management should implement a hybrid schedule based on the level of collaborative access employees need to their coworkers.

Reports also indicate both after the start of the pandemic and now, employees communicated more with their immediate teams and colleagues they collaborate with semi-regularly. These increases are likely in response to the absence of being able to easily communicate in-person, forcing a greater reliance on more frequent virtual collaboration. Another aspect of collaboration that has remained is a less hierarchical communication structure. Before the pandemic, employees were more likely to interact with more junior or senior colleagues by simply walking the office hallways. A more transparent, approachable organization structure gives employees more access to management and leaders, and can positively impact culture, knowledge sharing, and opportunities for development and growth.

Failing to create a productive work environment leads to burnout and issues retaining top employees.

Failing to create a productive work environment leads to burnout and issues retaining top employees. Conducting surveys amongst organizations is telling about an employee’s wellbeing and satisfaction. Without truly understanding how an organization is functioning—how teams collaborate, who they work best with, how they effectively spend their time, etc., the opportunity is missed to encourage a more productive, healthy, and happy workplace.

Measuring organizational health starts with leveraging data to understand employee engagement, team productivity, and the organization’s ability to adapt to change. The use of workplace analytics combines data science and objective analysis with surveys to make intentional changes that guide the future of an organization, no matter what is going on in the world. Workplace analytics helps organizations improve productivity, performance, and retention, giving them a competitive edge with both current and future employees.

Written By
More from Ben Waber

The Implications of a Data-Less Workplace Strategy

As we begin to think of post-pandemic return to work plans, Ben...
Read More

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *