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Take it From a Futurist: Why Employee Experience Needs People Analytics

Cornerstone Editors


Editor's Note: We would never dream of trying to predict the future—that's why we left it up to the futurists. In this series, we interview experts in HR, recruiting and the future of work to get their take on what's next.

"Employee experience" is a hot-button topic in the workplace. It's often what new hires crave, but, paradoxically, not what HR professionals prioritize.

In fact, studies show the majority of corporate decision-makers aren't prepared to improve employee experience. In Deloitte's 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report and survey, 59 percent of human resources and business leaders said they were either "not ready" or only "somewhat ready" to address the challenge of enhancing employee experience.

Futurist Jacob Morgan is all too familiar with the lack of action companies take to improve the employee experience. When Morgan reviewed 252 companies for his latest book, The Employee Experience Advantage, he found that only 6 percent of them were investing in employee experience.

Improving employee experience should be a business imperative. According to Morgan's research, regardless of size, companies that invest in employee experience have higher revenues and profits. We sat down with Morgan to find out how corporate leaders can rethink, improve and prioritize employee experience now and in the future.

Aim for Consistency—Not Standardization

There are many reasons why corporate leaders have a hard time changing their attitudes toward employee experience, but their tendency towards standardization is a leading factor.

"Standardization is an enemy for a lot of organizations," Morgan says. "In some ways, it's a direct contradiction to employee experience. Employee experience is about flexibility, personalization and customization, and standardization is when everybody goes through the same process and experiences the same thing."

One glaring example is annual performance reviews, which Morgan recommends replacing with ongoing, unstructured communication between employees, managers and leaders.

But can raises and promotions be given out objectively without a standardized process in place? Morgan says yes, as long as there are guidelines in place to make sure all decisions are fair. "Consistency is more important than standardization. Make sure you're doing things consistently across the board over time, as opposed to doing the exact same thing over time."

Morgan is also an advocate of feedback mechanisms that create clear lines of communication inside an organization. These systems allow for one-on-one conversations, surveys, focus groups, real-time feedback and company-wide communication and collaboration.

"Employee experience is not creating experiences for people—it's creating experiences with people," Morgan says. "And creating them with people means everyone needs to be able to share ideas and get feedback."

Use People Analytics To Steer Into the Future

Morgan suggests that to improve employee experience, forward-thinking companies should build a people analytics team responsible for managing employee data, including salary, employee engagement levels, team structures, demographics, performance levels and educational background. The team's primary task would be to consistently analyze this data and suggest actions based on its findings. For example, the team might find a correlation between where employees are based and how they perform, which could ultimately lead them to realize that low morale at a given office is the underlying cause of underperformance.

The team, just like any other future-focused team within an organization, should be encouraged to experiment without fear of failure. A test-and-learn approach will help generate innovative ideas backed by employee data.

Chances are, organizations already have people with the skills needed to be a part of a people analytics team. Tap existing employees who have experience with data, visualization and storytelling, and let them play around with employee data to see what insights they can generate.

In the beginning, the people analytics team might be considered part of an organization's HR team, but as the team grows and evolves, it could branch out on its own.

"It's not hard to imagine a not-too-distant future where people analytics becomes its own department that works with multiple other lines of business," Morgan says.

Header Photo: Unsplash

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