The science of engagement is a hot topic in the HR world. Engaged employees, after all, have been shown to be happier, more productive, and more loyal in the long run. But how does one break down engagement? How do you create a culture where people want to work, as opposed to simply meeting the obligations of their role?
Part of the answer lies in the analysis of workplace relationships. In recent surveys, 44 percent of employees who had a positive relationship with their bosses had lower stress levels, and 54 percent of those who were proud of what their company contributed to the outside world were more engaged in their work.
The relationships employees have with both their companies and their colleagues will affect their performance in a major way. Companies that are serious about creating a culture to attract, engage and retain their best employees need to focus on improving the relationships their employees experience in every aspect of their jobs.
Engagement and Culture Metrics Intersect
Engagement can be boiled down to how we feel about our work experience, and culture is the collection of behaviors we demonstrate in the workplace. The analytics relevant to these two areas relate almost entirely to relationships:
• Quantity and quality of engagement with other employees
• Sentiment of people and communities of people
• Influence and authority within networks
• Who is recognized and to what degree for certain behaviors
Follow an agile development model that uses lots of small, iterative steps that can be continually improved upon
Of course, it’s one thing to say engagement is driven by employees’ relationships, but quite another to actually do anything about it. Understanding these relationship networks, the quality of the relationships, how people feel within these networks, and the behaviors most valued in them is a good start. But to actively change a company’s culture— and, thus, improve engagement—HR must have business intelligence systems in place that can not only collect and analyze employee feedback, but distribute that information broadly so that many people can take action.
By leveraging new data collection and visualization tools that can integrate these data points with a broad range of others such as time, job function, retention, and skills, new patterns and correlations can be understood. In this way, management can better test and understand the effects of existing and potential programs and continuously improve upon each one’s effectiveness. Employees across the organization can feel more informed and empowered connecting their individual actions with the broader objectives of the company.
From Analysis to Action
Anyone who has recently completed a culture and planning strategy process knows how challenging it can be. Although a few dozen people have been part of the process (and perhaps many employees had the opportunity to give input), only the handful of people closely involved really understand the new culture objectives enough to be able to take action.
How do you get the other 10,000 employees on board? What if you could:
- Create custom badges that champion and “gamify” the new behaviors?
- Distribute information, and collect feedback from hundreds or thousands of people in real-time?
- Understand how people feel about changes being made, or whether a change in the culture is affecting retention and productivity?
- Create virtual competitions that help people understand the underlying concepts of a new brand?
- Or champion and celebrate people who exemplify this new brand?
Not only are all of these things possible, they’re already being done within companies that have people analytics in place. Information gleaned from people analytics may come in many different forms, and often in unexpected ways.
Take Xerox’s recent woes with customer retention as an example. When it came to hiring employees for its call centers, the company did what any company would do—it looked for experienced candidates to fill the positions, assuming more experienced candidates would perform at the highest level and stay the longest. Instead, employees quit so quickly after being hired that, in many cases, Xerox wasn’t able to recoup the $5,000 spent training each one.
When the company stopped following what it assumed was common sense and started actually looking at the data, it discovered there was no correlation between experience and performance or retention.
What did help them reduce attrition rates? Hiring creative types and active social media users; according to the data, these candidates were most likely to excel in the position.
While the impact is clear, even more compelling is the fact that within a few years, people analytic tools will be able to proactively identify these types of opportunities, helping companies address problems before they become significant.
Embracing People Analytics in Your Workplace
Without the right analytics, you have no idea whether your systems are broken. The fact is, nearly 90 percent of companies use ineffective and outdated engagement systems. People analytics could not only help create new, effective systems reducing investment in largely ineffective programs, but it could also prevent you from getting left in the dust.
The first step is to organize a team to collect this data and put it to use. In many companies, HR departments hire specialists or train existing employees to improve their data capabilities. Think about who you want involved, and then form your team. Many companies realize people analytics is not their strength and look to partners like Maritz EX who are global leaders in people analytics and understanding human behavior.
As you plan, identify a few questions you would like to have answered to give your team solid goals and boundaries. It’s easy to get lost in the data and find lots of interesting but less valuable insights. But with clear objectives in mind, your team can navigate their way through it without getting caught up in the weeds.
Rather than create one master plan that tries to encompass everything (and leaves plenty of room for error), follow an agile development model that uses lots of small, iterative steps that can be continually improved upon. You can then celebrate milestones achieved along the way, gradually building support within the organization.
Building people analytics capabilities to analyze employee behavior and relationships is not an easy task—if it were, everyone would already be doing it—but it provides tremendous value across the entire organization. When you have an ongoing, detailed understanding of what motivates your employees, it makes creating better relationships and a culture where people actually want to work that much easier.
(Updated from original article that appeared in CIO Review in 2016)