How to use big data to boost employee engagement

Fewer than one-third of U.S. employees are engaged at work, yet that’s the highest the engagement rate has been in more than a decade. This author explains how big data can help.

Study after study shows the problems of a disengaged workforce: dwindling employee morale and the hefty price that organizations pay for lost productivity.

Unfortunately, employee engagement is low and has been for a long time. According to Gallup, fewer than one-third of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. Still, that is the “highest reading since 2000.”

No matter how much we talk about employee engagement, we’re stuck in a rut. It’s time to rethink employee engagement by bringing big data into the equation.

Big data has already demonstrated its importance in solving a host of business problems. From increased customer intelligence and lead generation to helping form and drive better business strategies, big data has a widespread impact on modern business.

How can big data help with engagement?

Big data equips businesses with a vast amount of customer information. Using records of customer interactions, buying histories, social media, online communities and surveys, businesses can predict future actions faster and with greater accuracy than ever before.

Many organizations, however, forget that their employees are their No. 1 customers. Organizations must create an environment that helps employees flourish. Just as we strive to build healthy, happy, long-term relationships with our customers, we must empower and build trust with our employees.

This doesn’t develop organically, however; you have to build trust over time. Start thinking about your employee engagement efforts. Once employees are engaged, they’ll bend over backward to remain loyal.

When you have the right tools and analytics, you can accurately measure everything, including individual performance, team spirit, interactions between departments and overall company culture.

Data-driven strategies to engage the workforce

In the days before big data, businesses tended to sideline problems with intangible solutions. Culture management was one such issue. How do employees behave? Do their actions reflect company values? Is there a positive work culture?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 80 percent of companies conduct employee satisfaction surveys but “many admit that they don’t understand how to interpret the results nor what to do to improve survey scores.”

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How do we change this? A couple of ways would be to create teams that include people familiar with the work and hire or train staff with exceptional analytical skills. Don’t be afraid to share your employee data with key partners and stakeholders—people who aren’t part of the process but have a vested interest in the outcome and are willing to challenge the status quo.

Here are three ways to use big data to boost employee engagement:

1. Use data to know your employees better.

Determining what inspires and deters employees and what they don’t care about helps employers to motivate their teams to perform better. With the huge reserves of HR data at their disposal, organizations can go beyond gut feelings and make better decisions for their employees. They can gather the most relevant metrics on their workers to understand, analyze and act. This ensures their employee engagement strategy is effective.

2. Apply the right metrics.

Pick a few simple metrics that will give you insight into areas of concern. Start by finding answers for basic questions such as:

  • Are your employees proud to be part of the organization?
  • As an employer, do you give employees enough incentives to stay motivated?
  • Do you spend enough time hearing and resolving your employees’ grievances?

3. Measure the right key performance indicators.

Focus on the most important employee-based key performance indicators for your business. Applying big data analytics to monitor your employees’ performance helps you appreciate top performers. It also opens up a new way to identify and support underperforming and unsatisfied employees before things get worse. Big data’s predictive capabilities even let you know which employees show early signs of dissatisfaction or are prone to accidents and health problems, which can help you stop negative behavior from growing. Data may be a lynchpin in understanding how to find and keep the best talent.

Data solutions that track employee engagement, satisfaction and retention are key to building and sustaining a happy and motivated workforce. The early adopters of data-driven employee engagement strategies are bound to find themselves ahead of their competitors.

A version of this article originally appeared on the V3B blog.

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