The People Part of People Analytics

June 20, 2022

A decade ago, “people analytics” was a vague term. Was there really value to be gleaned from Human Resources (HR) data? People were skeptical and saw analytics as only adding value to business departments, or to the larger organizations who had thousands and thousands of employees generating data to learn from.

These days, fortunately, the perspective has shifted radically. People analytics as a discipline is expanding rapidly in importance everywhere in HR or “Human Capital Management” as it is sometimes called. Data, and measurement of specific metrics, has become crucial across businesses small and large, and far and wide in all sectors.

Our eyes have been opened: you do not need tons of employee data to learn what works and what does not for your workforce. Better people decisions can already be made if you only have a handful of data points. Think of that as an onboarding process. Would it not be better to ask a few current onboarders for their experience, rather than basing the redesign solely on your own gut feel?

With the value of data in mind, analytics has spread to all disciplines of HR. Pilots are being run with four-day work weeks or working fully remotely. Learning analytics are being leveraged to gauge the bottom-line impact of employee development. The inequalities in salary and rewards are being uncovered and corrected. And there are advanced algorithms at work deciding whom to hire or promote.

However, not all people analytics projects have been equal success stories. Remember Amazon, who’s hiring algorithm was secretly biased against women? Or Google employees complaining about the monitoring tools that track internal dissent? There are numerous cases where the use of HR data and analytics has done more harm than good. Too often, people analytics projects seem to dehumanize the employee.

Fortunately, success stories in people analytics have something in common. They aim to provide value for the employee “first”, with the understanding that this will ultimately support the organization’s success. Analytical applications and data analyses can only benefit the company by improving employee well-being or experience. If the employees are thriving, the company thrives. And I joined AwakeTeams as this same philosophy lies at the core of our product and the analytics that power it.

Additionally, people in organizations do not operate in isolation. We learn, grow, and perform together. At AwakeTeams, we recognize this social aspect of learning and development, and we leverage it to realize unprecedented results. Our social learning model recognizes that individuals are more effective in realizing behavioral change when they operate in teams. This happens because peers can introduce accountability, reveal blind spots, and provide feedback and a mirror when it comes to new behavioral patterns. Teams learn more together and so do individuals.

The AwakeTeams program seeks to best develop people in their daily work environment and in the ways they need the most. Our platform and algorithms help employees discover their growth edges, based on their own perspectives and those of their peers. We leverage this rich peer feedback to provide personalized growth paths, optimized for both individual and team development. Employees learn to communicate and collaborate better with their teammates, and create meaningful trustworthy relationships with their peers. We strongly believe that this growth optimizes team cohesion and performance. Better yet, we have the data to show for it! Ultimately, more effective teams result in a higher performing organization; that’s a fact we’ve known for decades already.

I truly believe that people analytics can only be successful to the extent that it is perceived as benefiting the employees whom the data is about. Rather than a one-size-fits-all, people analytics should seek to tailor solutions to the person, and create a great employee experience. Instead of focusing on compliance, people analytics should make employees feel empowered and trusted. Hence, I proudly proclaim: let’s focus on the People, in People Analytics.  

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