Applying Analytics to Make Work More Human

January 7, 2021

Applying Analytics to Make Work More Human

People analytics is still a young science, but its promise is so great that more than 70 percent of companies consider it a high priority. The next generation of people analytics goes beyond individuals to understand how human interplay across an enterprise drives overall performance—making work more human, not less. 

We live in a data-obsessed business environment but, until recently, traditional human resources has been resistant to this change. The classic HR director from the past was a master of soft skills and left data management to the IT and finance teams. That’s changing with widespread acceptance of HR software in areas like benefits administration and recruiting that automate long-established practices. This administrative layer of software helps checkbox functions like corporate governance, legal compliance and process management. 

Those checkboxes are necessary, but they can quickly squeeze the energy out of a workforce. Administrative software has a way of categorizing everyone according to just a few criteria, and it monitors big, impersonal data like costs, with the inevitable result that the software becomes focused on spend management of its biggest cost—people. In many places, these applications become tools of bureaucracy, the sworn enemy of innovation, creativity and individuality. 

The Human Future of Work

The future of work is here, and it’s more human than anyone ever imagined. Although some of us may talk in emojis or be more comfortable with text conversations than face-to-face—especially now that teams are dispersed and people are more remote than ever before—technology has allowed us to drive true community and be better connected to our colleagues in ways that truly matter.

The key to this shift has been using technology to create human moments that matter, which also collects data on your people—who they interact with, how large their networks are, what they are recognized for and how all that information varies among teams and demographic groups. This year, we have seen an outpouring of employee recognition among our customers. 

As an example, a global pharmaceutical organization sent tens of millions of dollars to more than 30,000 employees to thank them for all their hard work in the face of the pandemic. This type of activity, along with day-to-day peer-to-peer recognition, generates a ton of information on the people in an organization—at last count, we have more than 50 million data points representing a wealth of authentic human connections.

Analyzing Moments of Recognition

When analyzed, this data can illustrate not only how the humans in an organization are working together, but also the depth of human connection as it relates to building and supporting relationships among people and increasing alignment around their shared values, shared goals and shared culture. Sparking human moments that matter instills a feeling of inclusion and belonging among diverse individuals whose common ground is the “village” of their workplace. These moments bring people together through feedback and support by recognizing effort and celebrating achievement. 

Typical administrative applications and HRIS systems may make old routines more efficient, but they don’t change the way people interact, collaborate, innovate and create in this newly agile way of working. People data from recognition, however, is an unprecedented source of insights rooted in authentic moments of gratitude between humans collaborating to make magic happen despite the world’s current circumstances. 

Through advanced data analysis, recognition moments reveal hidden patterns and data points that might otherwise go unnoticed. They reduce risk by identifying problem areas before those problems become crises. Because they can map the interactions among people, they can discover subtle features of an organization: who is influential, what amount of communication between cross-functional teams is optimal, how innovation happens, who is contributing outside the immediate circle and much more. 

These moments make it possible to create a deep store of data points and analytics that measure the most urgent questions enterprises face. Analytics make what’s hidden clear. They create insight. They set a platform of undeniable data that cuts through wishful thinking or frustrated confusion. And, above all, they are the result of a system of recognition and thankfulness that promotes humanity—and the connectivity, engagement and well-being that comes with it—in a way that is natural, because it is rooted in informal, moment-by-moment communication that scales along with your organization. 

The Authors: 

Derek Irvine is the Senior Vice President of Workhuman®. 

Eric Mosley is CEO of Workhuman®.

Irvine and Mosley are co-authors of Making Work Human: How Human-Centered Companies Are Changing the Future of Work and the World (McGraw-Hill Education, 2020).