Some HR professionals may still regard data as their proverbial Achilles’ Heel. But they can’t afford to shy away from it any longer – not if they hope to gain an edge over the competition.   

Data doesn’t need to be overwhelming or complicated – especially not with the collection and analytics tools that are now available. The key is for HR teams to source relevant, rich and regular data. Only when you ask the right questions at the right time can you derive the sort of valuable insights you need to drive the change your employees want to see, and future business success.  

Unlocking relevant data 

Your employees are your most important asset, and your key to long term company growth. Engaged employees bring their full selves to their work. They help you to reduce turnover, attract new talent, foster better customer experiences, and ultimately boost the bottom line.  

As HR professionals, you already understand the importance of listening to your employees to stay ahead of their evolving needs and expectations. And a lack of data isn’t a problem. When it comes to people matters, there’s a constant, rolling river of it.  

The problem is context – understanding the story it tells you and what’s really relevant when it comes to driving strong employee engagement.  

Many organisations get off on the wrong foot by concentrating on metrics like number of hours spent in the office, or facetime with clients. While these may seem like logical metrics to examine, they will tell you very little about how your employees are feeling, and won’t unlock the insights you need to get ahead. 

Instead, companies should identify and examine the many different elements of the workplace that really impact engagement. At Peakon, for example, we use what we call the ‘14 drivers of engagement’, which were identified over time by behavioural psychologists and management theorists. These drivers – such as autonomy, environment and growth – take into account the many ingredients of worklife, across all industries. By measuring how workers feel about each of these drivers on a 0-10 scale, leaders can quickly intuit what their employees want, expect and what specifically needs to change.  

This sort of rigourous, scientific methodology is key to understanding your employees, improving engagement, fuelling productivity, and winning your employees’ trust. 

Unlocking rich and regular data  

To get even more out of your data, encourage employees to leave comments, and consider asking them some additional open-ended questions too.  

While a numeric rating can point to a problem, it won’t necessarily reveal how the employee thinks the problem should be addressed. Comment data poses its own complexities, of course, but with the right tools in place for analysis and measurement, it can provide a deeper understanding of how your employees are feeling and why.  

Timing is key too. Most companies report on financial performance on a monthly or quarterly basis. Yet workforce metrics are often only considered annually – if at all. By the time employee feedback is gathered, analysed and actioned, issues that could have been prevented may already be at crisis point. 

The antidote? Short, frequent and anonymous surveys. Not only do these demonstrate that companies are continuously listening, they empower employers to make rapid decisions, based on real-time data. When workers are regularly asked for their honest opinions, and leaders use the responses to make tangible improvements, employee engagement becomes a shared responsibility and part of the company culture.  

Using this data to get ahead 

Great businesses are built upon great people. It’s strange that some companies still spend millions on understanding the behaviours, motivations and emotional drivers of customers, but remain reluctant to apply this methodology to their own workforce.  

However, organisations with relevant, rich and regular data at their fingertips, can empower every employee, from the bottom of the top, to play a part in the engagement mission.  

Middle managers, for example, can use the insights and resources to become more autonomous and grow as leaders. For HR professionals, this knowledge brings greater power and influence  – an opportunity to partner the C-Suite in shaping and informing strategy. With tangible, real time insights in their toolkits, HR leaders can break from the silos of conversations in corridors to make stronger cases for the changes employees really want to see, such as flexible working policies or paternity leave.  

It stands to reason that when you give employees a voice, listen to them and act upon what they’re saying, you get an emotional buy-in in return. Only when UK businesses properly harness the data at hand, will they be able to make sure that work really works for people, and reap the rewards of lower turnover, higher productivity and stronger profitability.