Like a lot of HR leaders dealing with the changing requirements throughout the pandemic, Gia Ganesh was faced with making decisions about how the company would handle the issue of vaccinations. The VP of people and culture at Atlanta-based health tech company Florence Healthcare thought about a lot of different scenarios: Would she keep employees fully remote, adopt a hybrid model or invest in more office space so they could all work in person together?
Deciding on a workplace design for Florence’s entire team was too much of a responsibility for Ganesh to handle alone. She needed more data to support her strategy. So instead of trying to come up with the answers by herself, she asked her employees: What would they want to do?
“We ran a survey and asked employees whether they wanted to come back to the office,” she said. “Most people said they wanted a hybrid model going forward, so we put that information together into an action plan proposal.”
“We would not have been able to do that without the data we gathered... Once we have data, we can take action.”
Ganesh’s story shows how important data can be to leaders trying to support their teams in a difficult time, but it’s only one example. Long before this pandemic or the work from home boom, people analytics have assisted HR managers in making decisions and leading their companies to success.
By measuring recruitment numbers, onboarding timelines, diversity demographics and other data points, employers can not only uncover trends, but also solve tricky problems. In addition to helping her make an office plan, Ganesh says that the surveys she conducted helped her discover that her team struggled with burnout and isolation during the pandemic. Knowing that information, she decided to launch a team building budget, which managers could spend on social activities to help employees bond with one another while working remotely.
“We would not have been able to do that without the data we gathered,” she said. “Once we have data, we can take action.”
What Are People Analytics?
What do retention rates, employee satisfaction, and gender demographics all have in common? They’re all forms of data that can be measured through people analytics. With this data, employers can understand trends within their company and use that information to become stronger leaders and better support their teams.
“[People analytics] can be used to understand how different individuals or departments work together, to gain insight into productivity, identify potential attrition risks, fatigue, and safety warning signs, and to assess diversity across the organization,” said Leslie Tarnacki, senior vice president of HR at Detroit-area-based HR tech company WorkForce Software.
Within an organization, data is a vital optimization tool, but only if leaders know when and how to use it. Ganesh explains that a successful people analytics strategy begins with gathering information and ends with that data being applied to achieve better business outcomes.
“I think where I see teams falling behind is when they have the data, but they don’t know how to read the data and make sense of it,” she said. “The key is understanding your company’s goals, and using data to reach them.”
Tech Tools Help – But Not All Are Necessary
People analytics has always been crucial to HR operations, but it’s only relatively recently that developments in software and AI have been introduced to streamline gathering employee data. HR tech platforms like Lattice and ChartHop can collect aggregate data from performance reviews and employee surveys to give leaders a breakdown of standout trends and areas for improvement on their teams, eliminating repetitive tasks so that managers can make decisions more quickly.
“We don't have a people analytics platform at Florence... Don't let not having a technology platform or resources limit you from doing the basic analytics, even if you're a one person HR team. Start small and build slowly.”
“Before there were people analytics tools, executing these types of analyses was much more difficult,” said Tarnacki. “People analytics software has made HR leaders’ jobs easier because it gives us, in essence, a shortcut to conducting an analysis of our people and predictive insights that can be leveraged to change outcomes.”
If investing in people analytics software doesn’t make sense with your company’s budget, that doesn’t preclude your HR team from gathering data and using it to inform your strategy. Even a simple spreadsheet document can be enough to get you started with people analytics.
“We don’t have a people analytics platform at Florence,” Ganesh said. “Don’t let not having a technology platform or resources limit you from doing the basic analytics, even if you’re a one person HR team. Start small and build slowly.”
Adjust and Scale
Bigger, more established companies may have the money and bandwidth to splurge on HRMS platforms, or to even build entire people analytics teams. But that doesn’t mean early stage startups can’t get in on the action. When it comes to people analytics, Anna Nesterenko, senior HR manager at Las Vegas-based LGBTQ+ dating app Taimi says that smaller teams should start with the basics and work their way up.
“Small companies also should focus first on just one or two organizational issues that people analytics can help them address,” she said. “In this way, they can test which techniques, metrics and tools work and which don’t. And understand how to adjust their people analytics approach to make it more effective”
If you’re leading a smaller company, start by brainstorming what data is most essential for you to help your team be successful, and then consider the logistics of gathering that information afterward. That may mean hiring an external team to collect data for you, or emailing a survey to your teammates — whatever makes sense with your budget and the size of your company.
“A small team does not mean you can’t invest time in people analytics,” Tarnacki said. “HR tech has come such a long way over the past few years, so finding a platform that allows for easy insight extraction can allow even the smallest team to benefit.”
Put Your Data to Use
Once again, gathering your data should only be the first half of your people analytics approach. The second and most important part is taking action with that data and letting it inform your approach to people leadership.
“Data alone is not going to do anything for you,” Ganesh said. “It should basically just be a conversation starter.”
“For instance, analytics can help with identifying areas where intentional and unintentional bias may be occurring, as well as how to effectively address problem areas.”
Let’s say your goal is to support the professional development of your employees. You’ll first have to gather data on promotions, internal mobility and team growth. What that data reveals about your teams will give you a roadmap of how to better support their learning and development. If you find some employees express interest in moving laterally to another team, you can help organize workshops or give them tasks that will help them learn the skills necessary to make the move successfully. If you discover that a certain team isn’t using a professional development stipend, they feel too overburdened to make time for other tasks, and you may need to sit down and talk with them to prevent burnout.
People analytics can help employers solve immediate problems, but they can also improve longer term outcomes. Tarnacki explained that managers could use gathered data to make a more serious commitment to DEI within their organizations.
“People analytics can give HR leaders more visibility into their diversity initiatives,” she said. “For instance, analytics can help with identifying areas where intentional and unintentional bias may be occurring, as well as how to effectively address problem areas.”
Spread the Word
People analytics is meant mainly to help you better understand and support your employees, it can do a lot more than that. Your data may reveal holes in your organization or areas for growth, but it can also reveal the things your company does well. You may be more invested in giving back to your community than your competitors, or your teams may have lower than average turnover rates. Data can not only help you improve your internal strategy, but can also help you market yourself as an employer of choice.
“There are great ways you can leverage that data for employer branding,” said Ganesh. “I’ve seen many bigger companies that show diversity breakdown on their careers pages. Some employers also share statistics about which benefits their employees love the most.”
Whatever your goals may be, people analytics data will help you dig deeper and create a targeted action plan to realize those goals. People analytics can do more than just make your company more efficient or competitive — with it, you can tune into what your employees truly need, and take an evidence-based approach to living out your company’s values.
“It all goes back to what your company stands for,” Ganesh said. “What data needs to be gathered to further your strategy, reach your goals, and leave a positive impact on the world?”