One of the most interminable and perhaps charming aspects of human nature is a near constant dissatisfaction with the status quo. In the context of work, pay and benefits are often the targets of dissatisfaction employees are most vocal about. In the future of work, employees want greater control over their careers, they want to be rewarded accordingly, and they want to know they are doing something that matters. To build a thriving workforce, human resources (HR) and leaders, throughout the organization, should use people analytics to glean insight into what they need to do to create a thriving work environment – an environment where employees feel empowered about their development, connected to their work and confident that their core needs are being met.
In today’s digital era, nurturing an engaged thriving workforce is not a destination, but a journey. When organizations make positive transformation a business imperative, employees who are fully invested in the mission — not just fully engaged in their work — will carry their organizations through. Through people analytics, organizations can use employee feedback programs to find out how their employees feel about their career paths and gauge connection to their work.
As new technologies make it faster and easier for people managers to funnel huge amounts of information and demands to their employees, there is an equal rise in expectations from employees. These days people want control, or at least a say in how, where, and when they do their job. Often, frustration ensues if employees do not feel they have a role in this decision making process. Consequently, workplace flexibility has become a top priority in today’s market, as evidenced by 44% of respondents from the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report,1 and 51% of respondents from Mercer’s Talent Trends 2018 report2 who note flexibility as a top workplace trend or essential.
Further, employees and organizations alike, are re-assessing what they want their futures to look like and what it means to have a “successful” career or business. There is growing recognition that successful organizations are made up of workforces that continually develop, learn and expand their capabilities. Tangentially, employees are increasingly starting to understand how critical it is to develop skills that are responsive to future business needs. Why? Because by 2020, 36% of jobs will require complex problem solving skills, and 19% will require social skills like emotional intelligence, negotiation and collaborating with others.1 Unsurprisingly, the World Economic Forum also predicts that by 2020 “more than a third of the desired core skillsets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.” This explains why many individuals will need to be more focused on learning how to learn and perhaps how to unlearn – and why so many organizations need to empower their employees to do so.
The Talent Trends 2018 report also found that 75% of thriving employees work for a company with a strong sense of purpose. Indeed as employee expectations evolve, many are starting to look for more meaningful, flexible, and enriching experiences at work. This is especially true for workplaces where technology has disrupted jobs to the extent that people feel extreme uncertainty about their futures. Companies that focus on using analytics to provide meaning and purpose and help their employees navigate the volatile and uncertain environment toward finding their North Star. Data from Mercer-Sirota surveys shows that while 1 in 3 employees strongly agree with questions about their engagement at work, only 1 in 6 strongly agree that their company is responding effectively to changes in its external business environment.3 The latter may be a reflection of how most employees do not feel their individual sense of purpose is aligned to that of the organization.
To help kick start this effort, some organizations have started to use analytics to personalize work to help employees feel more connected to the company’s purpose. The intention is to design workplaces where people can say:
There is no doubt that organizations are looking for ways to tap into a consistent stream of insights on their people. Indeed, 46% of organizations plan to introduce a continuous feedback tool in the year ahead, and many are exploring tools for real-time feedback on key initiatives. As organizations move toward talent platforms and skills-based employment, many need to utilize smarter employee feedback analytics, usually combining surveys and other methods that provide consistent feedback and drive greater agility. Digital solutions that help companies engage their talent ecosystem and support their employees’ health, wealth, and careers will be essential in the future of work.2
These changes have caused many HR leaders to start thinking of employees more like customers. Like marketing functions that use data driven approaches to learning about their customers, HR functions are beginning to use similar approaches with employees. For example, employee feedback and behavioral data can be used to learn how to improve the employee lifecycle – from the onboarding process all the way to the exit interview. Thriving companies incorporate their employee survey findings across the employee life-cycle to implement changes and improvements, and they do this exercise often, not just once a year.
While this sounds appealing, the area where HR usually struggles most is in designing compelling user experiences for employees and managers – ones that support user engagement. I would argue that HR has a responsibility to use technology to improve the feedback process, simplify workflow and tailor employee experiences. The most effective feedback surveys are streamlined to collect employee opinions in a way that helps leaders and HR keep a finger on the pulse of the organization. When done well, employee surveys are a trove of information and insights that can be used to set or adjust strategy.
Keep in mind this last, but perhaps most important note: there is no point in using people analytics or employee feedback programs unless it helps drive organizational changes and improvement.
For example, Google in Ireland responded to employee feedback about work-life balance by implementing a “Dublin Goes Dark” initiative. In this campaign employees were asked to leave their devices at work to encourage them to truly disconnect and switch off.4 This is an example of how Google uses employee feedback (or people analytics) to build a thriving organization where employees feel heard, respected and empowered.
Effectively building a thriving organization means using people analytics to find out what you do not know about your employees. Employee engagement surveys are morphing into more streamlined processes that can help leaders and HR keep a finger on the pulse of their organizations. Seeking regular feedback helps companies stay aligned to core employee needs and engagement. It can also highlight what gaps need to be plugged and what potential issues may arise. Feedback even allows organizations to adjust when new needs emerge. By checking in regularly and implementing responses, organizations can create an environment that unlocks the full potential of their workforce.