The graph above showcases the future the world is moving towards. I have chosen 3 words in particular for this graph. People Analytics, HR Analytics, and Employee Experience.
If you're wondering what is this future that I'm talking about, you're in the same place I started when I began to learn about this. The above trend shows the searched for terms from 2004 to present. These terms have seen a rise so significantly, there must be something important about it. So, I started my journey with the People Analytics and employee experience.
One of the first and best articles I came across is the Harvard Business review article that talks about how some employees are constantly having an impact on other employees and that you can measure this. The article is named Better People Analytics. This article opened my eyes to how organisations can self-sustain themselves. Of course, the main priority is going to be to sell the product to a large clientele, but, to reach this large consumer base a functioning system is set up. Typically we recognise these systems as the manufacturing, marketing, sales, HR, and development teams. These teams can have subdivisions but these are the overarching terminology that puts the teams into the different sub-categories and they are responsible for sourcing people to produce the product, market it, and sell it.
The next way the firm self-sustains is through communication. Each of these teams mentioned has to maintain communication with each other and even external sources. For creating a better functioning environment for the business, it is crucial that the firm measures the impact of its processes, for example, communication. This brings us to the next point on People Analytics, measuring something is the only way to improve it. It is people analytics that enables us to make such measurements. About 5 to 7 years ago, the technology that was available to us was not developed enough to handle such complex relationship management analytics. After artificial intelligence really got a boost, the applications of it became expansive and ideas that were formed beforehand started coming to life.
"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
I admit that Aristotle was a philosopher and not a mathematician, but, he was also a polymath and made contributions to so many fields, it would leave me breathless if I named them. So when he said something, people heard him out. I think it’s time we do the same.
What does it mean when he refers to the whole? In our context, the whole refers to groups of people and that when they function together, they produce a lot more than what each of the individuals could have produced individually.
I think the biggest contributing element to this logic is that nobody is perfect but everyone has their own unique set of strengths. When you put together a diverse team where people have different strengths and weaknesses, a single task can get divided amongst the team so that they can do it quicker and can depend on each other to nullify their drawbacks.
People analytics in HR
So what does mathematics of people analytics have to do with? A lot actually. Understanding how people interact with each other could be the key to understand how any business can improve it’s functioning regardless of its size.
Employee engagement can be the make or break for any product. There are multitudes of statistics available online to talk about how bad employee engagement can cost a firm a huge chunk of money, but, HR Analytics or People analytics has to be about the employees first. So, let’s talk about what makes engagement so important.
Engagement in the workplace can also be referred to as the ‘buy-in’ from the employee. When trying to develop a product or market it, it is important to understand that if the employee who is building the future of the product does not have buy-in, their work is going to be very impersonal. Employees can deliver phenomenal work if they are genuinely invested in the future of the product. This involves setting up effective communication and taking accountability for work. These factors can really push the quality of the work and give any company a significant boost.
Working with the Stars
We know that not all employees work the same. Some can produce better results than others in the same amount of time. Companies have the tendency to describe them as their stars and top performers. (Think back to watching employee of the month poster on the wall). Although this a really ingenious method to create competitiveness and boost morale, if there are no proper systems in place to measure your top performer, many tend to perceive it as favouritism.
This is where mathematics of people analytics comes into play. This offers an equal ground for everyone to participate in. Defining the metrics brings us to a very important section called the 9-box grid. With performance on the X-axis and potential on the Y, this grid allows you to see all your employees as a factor of who is doing best.
It will even tell you about employees who are at a high risk of turnover. Which brings us to the next big thing in people analytics, Turnover and Retention.
Turnover vs Retention
These two words occupy the daily worries of any HR Executive. They may not seem like much at a first glance but when you start to look at it more closely, these two factors can be the make or break for a workforce. Turnover can tell you about what’s going wrong in the company, where have employees lacked historically and if the company is ready to face the next target with its employees.
Retention, on the other hand, can talk about how you can keep your best performers and teams. After spending thousands of dollars on the training of an employee, once you do start to get the results, it would be logical to not want to see the employees leave. It is a human tendency to look at better prospects after all, so how can you become the best prospect for the employee? You guessed right, People Analytics is the answer.
The 9-box grid mentioned earlier can give you a well-calculated prediction of which of your employee do you need to focus on retaining and which ones are creating the least revenue for your business.
There is also the factor of improving business policies and providing employees with benefits that help retain them at the best balance of cost-to-company and employee motivation.
This is the final thing I’d like to discuss in the People Analytics section. Think back to what I mentioned earlier, measuring is the only way to improve anything. Many companies have tried multiple ways of measuring goals and performance. The traditional method is the assigning tasks and measuring how many of them are completed.
Many companies have moved away from this as it has many drawbacks and does not give a real-life view of what the performance is like. HR is leaning towards adopting OKRs or Objective Key Results. Most times these are set in consultation with the employee and is beyond what they would normally achieve. This is a real-life representation of - shoot for the stars and you’ll land on the moon at least. Of course, since there is the measuring involved, this does come under People analytics but it can also take the addition of 360-degree feedback, self-evaluation and other tinier elements that play into creating a goal.
People analytics can be the answer to improving employee performance because improvement can only be measured. People who chose to ignore performance metrics and HR Analytics in the future are going to be at a disadvantage because they will not be equipped with the right tools to compete with businesses that have really set a uniform ground for all their employees.