Paul Burrin: Using people science to improve workplace performance

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harnessing data to improve workplace performance

Every day, increasingly vast volumes of data are being produced. In fact, we produced as much as two quintillion, five hundred quadrillion (that’s 25 with 17 zeroes after it) bytes of data every single day. That’s so much data that it would fill 10 million Blu-Ray discs. If we then stacked these discs up on top of each other it would be as tall as four Eiffel Towers!

And that’s growing every day. In fact, 90 per cent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. The age of big data is well and truly here. As a result, companies have a wealth of information about their customers at their fingertips—from their buying habits, to their style preferences and lifestyle choices. Companies know what type of products different consumers prefer, how they like to engage with their brand, and when they may be most likely to buy from them. And, as a result, their buying experience is constantly optimized, improved, and tailored to each consumer.

But what if you had the same level of insight and visibility concerning your employees? What if you knew where every high-potential employee could add most value? What about how your staff prefer to work? Or, who is likely to become a flight risk?

Imagine the impact on the company’s performance if an organization tapped into this and knew their employees as well as their customers. Companies could revolutionize the way that they work and engage their people, designing great workforce experiences that enable their employees to do their best work—ultimately improving performance and productivity. All thanks to increased workforce visibility, achieved through better data reporting, analytics and actionable insights. The answer lies in using People Science in your organization.

Defining People Science

People Science means applying data-driven approaches to improve workforce visibility—and how you both manage and engage your workforce. It’s about understanding people and their behavior in your company, and generating more actionable insights to help you make better business decisions about your workforce. People Science is more than just people analytics. In practice, it means not just mining data and reporting it—but analyzing it, and gaining actionable insights to test hypotheses and identify solutions.

Leveraging People Science for your company

With People Science, organizations can use data to develop stronger and predictive insights about their people and motivations. These insights can then be used to make more informed evidence-based decisions. The data can then be used for predictive purposes, so that managers can start to understand and make decisions based on people’s behavior and motivations. Currently, sales, marketing and operations are all using data to plan and measure objectives and gain actionable insight and visibility, meaning they can demonstrate the value of their contributions to the business and its bottom line. So too should HR and People teams as the department responsible for any organization’s biggest asset: its people. That’s what People Science is all about.

Five steps to success on your People Science journey

Apart from a simple headcount report, fewer than 50 per cent of organizations today can deliver same-day metrics such as top and bottom performers, skills gaps, and attrition levels. In fact, only 34 per cent of companies are currently using data and analytics for making people decisions, according to our recent research report. In this world where some businesses currently operate on spreadsheets, or struggle to aggregate data from multiple sources, the ambition to use People Science to boost visibility and drive business performance will involve several steps. The journey starts – and businesses should start – with having accurate and accessible people data. That means that companies should hold all their data in one place and one system —a single source of truth. Establishing a single source of truth enables the next step, which is to begin people reporting. This is the most common requirement for HR and People teams, who may already create charts and dashboards to visualize the data, and create those all-important report packs for the board meeting. This enables HR and People leaders to access simple information such as headcount reports in seconds, instead of days. From there, the next step is people analysis, where leaders can analyze the data and identify trends. Companies should dig into the detail to explore the why behind the what. What are the consistent patterns? Why are they occurring? And what can be done about them? For example, identifying those most likely to be a flight risk, or those least engaged. Next is establishing people insights; here, companies should test hypotheses and predictions based on the analysis already done. If HR and people teams have made assumptions based on the analysis they hold, then here is where they test those to ascertain if they are correct, and as a result, identify solutions. This might mean identifying why employees might be a flight risk, and understanding the different possible factors or explanations behind this. Finally, using these solutions to make smarter business decisions and design better ways of working is the ultimate end goal. In the example of identifying those most likely to leave it would mean knowing not only why – but what can be done to fix this, and implementing a solution. Organizations which do this, use People Science.

Implementing People Science

The benefits of using People Science in your organization are vast. VP of People at Sound Cloud, Caoimhe Keogan, uses data to find the right people to hire. She explains that,

We spend a lot of the time analyzing the data we have available in a hunt for nuggets of insight that could ultimately prove to be valuable in our hiring processes.

Soo J. Hong, Chief Human Resources Officer at WeWork, also says it isn’t just about accessing data and then reporting it. It’s a matter of being analytical and deriving useful insight. He says that,

For every interview we do, we have a very simple scorecard: thumbs up or thumbs down. We look at this data retrospectively against the hires we make, comparing it with the interviewing panel that were involved with hiring that person. We then look at how the hire is doing after 90 days or even six months. This way we can start to see who the best culture testers are in our company from an interview panel standpoint. It is amazing to see in the data who is most effective at candidate assessment.

Why use People Science?

With People Science, companies can boost workforce visibility and design better insight-driven workforce experiences for their people to ensure they attract and retain the best.
Low unemployment and the war for talent have given people choice, and organizations must work harder to recruit high-performing talent. This is magnified by a culture of employee mobility, especially among millennials—meaning retention is more vital than ever. And every employee has different motivations. People Science can make a tangible difference to your business. Now’s the time to start understanding these different needs and priorities. We need to start getting to know our employees as well as we know our customers. Businesses need to ensure they gain just as much insight from their workforce as they do from frontline functions.

Interested in people analytics? We recommend Mission Critical HR Analytics Summit 2019.

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About Paul Burrin

Paul is a highly experienced HR tech professional with over 30 years in the industry. Before joining Sage in 2017, as CMO for Sage People, he worked for a variety of companies including as VP at Citrix, sales lead at Google and VP at Oracle.

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