By Fan Bi
The 2008 financial crisis forced almost every company to reevaluate how they utilized their talent, as staff cuts across numerous industries resulted in skeleton teams being tasked with operating as efficiently as before. Thankfully, the situation has improved dramatically since the recession, but the important lessons learned during those lean times can still be applicable in a bull market.
One of these revelations is the power of workforce analytics, or using advanced data to position your employees to operate at optimal productivity levels. Your talent is your most valuable asset, yet many executives are unsure how to maximize the value of that talent. They choose to make mission-critical personnel decisions based solely on qualitative assessments, and the lack of reliable data prevents them from being proactive.
Reaching new levels of productivity through exceptional talent management is a complicated process, which is why creating a robust culture of data supremacy through workforce analytics is so crucial. There are so many variables that go into building a sound strategy for talent utilization that it would be impossible for managers to account for all possibilities without the help of quantitative analytics. By incorporating workforce analytics software into your organization, you gain real value from studying human capital management data, thereby maximizing the productivity of your staff and positioning your company for growth.
One of the most significant benefits of workforce analytics is that you’re able to automate so many processes that can reveal important details about the work habits of your team. These processes may seem trivial when observed individually, but comprehensively they can have a huge impact.
Take timecard management as an example. In isolated circumstances, looking at a single employee’s timecard data and productivity levels may or may not provide insights into how that person could best be utilized. However, when this data is collected in real-time for an entire department, analytics can display important trends concerning how time management impacts productivity.
It’s important to point out that using data collected from workforce analytics programs to make better strategic decisions isn’t synonymous with treating your employees like robots. No management team is going to be optimally successful by using data as an excuse to have employees shave fractions of a second off of their process times. Rather, this collection of big-picture data allows you to see how and when your employees are most productive, and to take advantage of this information by getting the most out of these times.
In the realm of human capital management, efficient scheduling has been one of the most enduring challenges faced by managers. When it’s not done well it can damage your productivity levels on two fronts: Not only are your employees not being used as efficiently as possible, but supervisors are also spending valuable time trying to figure out how to solve the problem.
Not all employees function at their peak capacity in the same situations or the same times. One person may be a star during the day shift, and then see their productivity drop when they’re scheduled to work at night. In collaborative environments, the makeup of the teams that are scheduled to work at the same time can be crucial. When one employee is scheduled with a new group, you may find their performance lacking due to compatibility issues.
Workforce analytics data allows you to go beyond the recognition that an employee is not working as productively as they could be, and begin to understand why that is and what can be done to correct it.
The human brain’s ability to identify patterns is unparalleled in nature, but in order to do so effectively we need to have the right information in front of us. Everyone knows how important pattern recognition can be for the success of an organization, as it allows us to correct inefficiencies and respond proactively in anticipation of challenges.
Let’s say that you’ve made a change in your overall sales strategy. Perhaps you’re trying to introduce a new product line, and you’ve instructed your sales reps to begin their conversations with existing clients by talking about the new offering. However, this directive is both increasing the time per call with each client and leading to a reduction in revenue for the existing product line. Anecdotal evidence alone may not be enough to show you that your strategy is a mistake, especially if your reps tell you they are getting a good response and client satisfaction levels remain even. But asking your sales team to change one thing could potentially be hampering their productivity, and analyzing real-time data can reveal this trend almost instantly.
Most business leaders invest large amounts of their time to career coaching, succession plans, and employee professional development, yet it’s often done without a clear strategy. Managers typically make a judgment early on about which employees they believe are capable of being groomed for advancement, and they also usually identify what they think the employee’s strengths and weaknesses are. This assessment rarely changes after the fact because people are reluctant to admit the fallibility of their initial instincts.
This mindset, however, often prevents managers from finding unique ways for their team to excel. It may take months, or even years, for a staff member to develop a certain skill and demonstrate competency with it, and you can use actual data to make unbiased judgments about the areas in which your employees thrive and struggle. With workforce metrics, you can better match people with the skills that are necessary for an advanced position, and also learn which abilities need to be addressed through further training in order to eliminate knowledge gaps in your team.
On a similar note, the lack of opportunity for advancement is a significant driver of employee turnover, which is an expensive and frustrating problem for any leader to confront. Everyone inherently understands that there’s value in retaining top talent, both from a financial and strategic perspective, but workforce analytics allows you to view the turnover problem through a new lens and retain more of your best performers.
Instead of looking at instances of turnover from the perspective of the cost of replacing the employee, training a new one, and waiting for them to reach previous levels of productivity, data analysis provides insight into what you’re losing when those employees depart the organization. One notable example comes from the case of Black Hills Corp., an energy company that faced a potential turnover crisis following an acquisition. Black Hills was able to identify the specific skills and types of employees that they would need in order to counteract the effects of an aging workforce and changing technology, and they were able to meet their needs by using workforce data to create a tangible action plan.
Organizations love to tout their programs for measuring employee engagement, but where they fall short is in tying results to the actual successes and shortcomings of the company. Their executives know generally that better engaged employees are both more productive and more likely to remain with the company, but engagement data is usually kept on the people side of the equation. It’s possible, however, to use quantitative analysis to tie employee engagement levels directly to concepts such as ROI, revenue growth, and productivity. This demonstrates the value of employee engagement initiatives in certain terms, allowing executives to make a compelling case to their shareholders for why an investment in these initiatives is not just beneficial, but necessary for the health of the organization.
Accurate predictions are nearly impossible to achieve without the insights from data, and talent analytics measures provide a way to create more reliable forecasts on both a micro and macro level. Human capital management is all about finding ways for your employees to reach their full potential, and you can help them understand that workforce analytics data is a crucial part of this experience.
By drilling down to the optimal capabilities of individual employees and then expanding your analysis to teams and even entire departments, you can develop a very clear picture of exactly what your company is capable of achieving. You’ll no longer have to be content with guesswork on forecasts, which often results in under- or over-shooting the capabilities of your employees. Once you know what your team should be able to accomplish, you can effectively communicate these goals, give them the tools and training they need to accomplish them, and hold them accountable for the results.
The best way to see how Salesforce is revolutionizing customer service is with a guided tour of Service Cloud. With the guided tour, we can show you how Service Cloud shines in several common use cases and scenarios.
Questions? Our reps have answers. 1-800-667-6389