How employee measurement is changing, and what this implies

Companies have vast amounts of data about employees, but probably won’t have all information for the decisions they need to make. It’s therefore rare to find that a people analytics project, or even good reporting analysis doesn’t include the need to collect additional data.

Over the last 18 months we’ve seen a big shift in how companies, and especially HR departments, are thinking about measurement. The headline would be ‘measure less, more often’.

Technology is obviously facilitating, but not necessarily driving the change. The biggest driver we see is a changing expectation in business about the recency of information. The executive team are asking the CHRO why some data is only changing on a yearly basis. HR leaders worry that theare being left behind.

The datasets that historically have been captured yearly include:

  • Performance management data
  • Career discussion data
  • Employee engagement

Of these, the one that seems to be moving most quickly towards regular measurement is employee engagement. I can’t remember a client asking for an annual survey for at least 18 months. The most typical frequency we’re seeing is quarterly though several firms and moving to monthly. We’re also talking to one large firm about what will be, in effect, a weekly survey of a sample population.

Moving to more regular surveys make several important demands on the process and technology. Much of this is driven by the greater need of immediacy – if you’re not quick the next survey is upon you.

  • Reporting / analysis needs to be very quickly produced and distributed. Automation is vital
  • Action planning will probably need to be bottom-up
  • Discussions tend to happen at a more localised level, usually team level
  • Our experience is that managers still want information in a format that can be printed, however we’re seeing more demand for one-side ‘infographic’ style reports – quick to comprehend and presented in an engaging manner to promote a good discussion
  • Interactive reporting is needed for central teams to identify / edit stories that can be presented to executives. At a local level interaction rarely adds anything & mostly serves to increases the clicks needed to get what the user wants
  • Communication has to be adapted – big ‘survey-event’ comms is out, replaced by more community-based or social. Think ‘always on’
  • To get usable data from a shorter survey which is often designed to be discussed at a team-level increases the importance of open-text questions
  • On a company-wide level this is driving far more sophisticated text analytics needed to make sense of a continual stream of unstructured information

Many of these points would apply to other types of employee measurement, most of which are based on subjective data, if the frequency increases. Of course the gold-standard is to link this data with other, probably observational data. This could include other non-structured data such as company social systems. As a rule, only ask questions that are difficult to infer from other sources.

Finally, companies need to pay attention to how the employee will benefit from providing data more frequently. This needs to be something that they want to do or the initiative will fail.