Written by Rob Scott for InsideHR on November 25, 2019
HR professionals and data analysts should work closely together in developing employee engagement programmes in order to drive stronger and more sustainable outcomes, writes Rob Scott
We all know that data analytics and employee engagement are two of the hottest topics of discussion among HR and business leaders. And for good reason. Many organisations are transforming operations into digitally-enabled businesses, which is ushering in significant changes to the way we work, how we remain an attractive employer, and how we keep the workforce engaged, motivated and productive.
There is also a growing acceptance that the so-called ‘soft-science’ label associated with human behaviour and the accompanying mystique of psychology are no longer valid reasons to dismiss the powerful role data and analytics play in improving people-related decision-making.
When used appropriately to understand business problems and expose opportunities in HR, analytics enhance trust, allow executive teams to position HR functions strategically and builds credibility and fact-based support for programmes such as employee engagement.
In many of my client interactions, analytics is an afterthought for employee engagement custodians. It’s often seen as a simple means to report their programme’s progress, and success or failure is often based on simple point-in-time survey results.
“Rather than guessing, your data analyst can work with you to determine the most effective length of time for your engagement interventions”
But in many respects, this is short-sighted. The data analyst should be part of the conceptual planning, because data outcomes can inform and shape the design of the employee engagement initiatives and help facilitate its continuous improvement. Your data analyst can credibly test outcomes on existing HR datasets or run pre-design trials to determine the best options or recommend changes or tweaks to an existing programme based on analytical results.
For example, how would you develop or modify your engagement programme if you knew the following:
- The effectiveness of most engagement programmes is generally marginal
- That engagement effectiveness decreases over time
- Your intervention method impacts success, and
- The length of the intervention is critical
These are findings from recent investigations by the University of Timişoara, Romania and offer some important guidance and examples for both design of the engagement programme and key points of measurement and analytical assessment.
For example, rather than guessing, your data analyst can work with you to determine the most effective length of time for your engagement interventions. There are constant battles in most companies fighting for an employee’s attention. A two-week engagement programme may be far more successful that one that runs over six months.
“Analysts can help you figure out which soft skills are the best intervention method to apply within the programme to give you maximum effect”
Analysts can figure out how many ‘nudges’ or ‘refreshers/reminder sessions’ are best in your work environment to mitigate the ‘decrease of effectiveness over time’ risk. If you knew without reminders, the engagement effects all but disappear after three months, you could build in appropriate actions, tests and measures.
Analysts can help you figure out which soft skills are the best intervention method to apply within the programme to give you maximum effect. This could be pre-tested and analysed based on existing LMS (learning management system), training and performance management datasets.
Using analytics appropriately in HR is critical and we need to get comfortable applying it in order to remain effective in our HR leadership roles. Al Adamsen, a global people analytics thought leader has this great saying: “Effective analytics is like a great football player, they don’t run to the ball, they run to where the ball is going to be”. That’s how we need to see the value of data.
3 steps to maximising employee engagement through analytics
- Engage your analytics team or service early in employee engagement programme design. Their input is likely to change how you develop the interventions.
- As an HR leader, building the right level of understanding of analytics and its application. This is an HR leadership risk mitigation factor.
- Using people analytics appropriately, empowers HR and managers, builds credibility and trust through evidence, without having to lose your human-centric style