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While employees may be a company's greatest asset, it is data in the hands of these employees that can truly make a difference. Workforce data and people analytics can help employees make informed decisions, develop strong strategic initiatives and achieve measurable goals.

From increasing leadership effectiveness to analyzing employee performance to developing training for increased customer loyalty, the impact of a data-driven culture runs far and wide. But creating such a culture is no easy feat: it not only requires building an internal analytics team, but also getting buy-in from employees across your organization.

For many organizations, simply getting off the ground with an in-house analytics team is intimidating, much less forming a culture around big data. We talked with Teri Schmidt, manager of the Assessment, Measurement & Evaluation (AME) team at JetBlue, about how her team has created a ripple effect of evidence-based decision-making from within. Here, her best advice for other organizations interested in putting analytics at the center of their culture and strategy.

Start Small

You have to crawl before you walk (or run) with analytics. When you're just beginning a data program, focus on a single metric or goal that can prompt a larger conversation about the impact of analytics, Schmidt advises.

"If you can come up with even one metric that people can understand, talk about and utilize, that will have a huge impact," she says. "As people begin to see value in using data, you can continuously improve your metrics, gain more access to data, and get people interested in collecting new data."

Lead by Example

After you've prompted interest in analytics, continue growing the conversation by sharing anecdotes and case studies with the company. If people see the result of a data-driven decision, they are more likely to trust in the potential of evidence-based decision making themselves.

"We started our conversations in a quarterly meeting where people shared success stories about where they had utilized data," Schmidt says. "Getting people talking can help get the ball rolling and take you to a point where you can build and improve."

Offer Learning Opportunities

The real key to instilling a culture around data, however, is to create opportunities for people to engage with analytics themselves. While conversation and success stories generate intrigue, the next step is dedicating resources to transform intrigue into action. For JetBlue, that meant creating a mentorship program for other employees to learn from AME team members.

The AME certification is a performance-based program that educates employees organization-wide about applying analytics, teaching effective data collection, analysis, visualization, communication and use in performance improvement. Participants apply the processes they learn to a real-life project, Schmidt explains. Along the way, AME mentors teach participants how to involve stakeholders in data collection and how to communicate their results effectively.

The cumulation of these efforts is company-wide engagement in data analysis. In addition to making smarter and better informed choices, JetBlue employees are now proactively seeking out opportunities to use data to improve the company.

"A big part of what we've seen — beyond making improvements that I don't think would've been made without the evidence provided through data — is a big growth of culture where people look to find and use data when they have a decision to make," Schmidt says. "They get excited [when they're able] to say they improved a certain program because they had the data to back it up."

Photo: Creative Commons