Prediction: People analytics will augment the workforce and the workplace

Posted by Kathi Enderes on December 4, 2018.

Ninety percent of the data in the world has been created within the last two years alone, and the continued emergence of new technologies will likely increase that rate even more. HR leaders have been attempting for years to use people analytics to turn this vast amount of data into actionable insights, but many still struggle with how and where to apply people analytics to maximize the return on investment. In the coming year, more and more organizations will start to apply people analytics in a new way, with a direct focus on the individual, rather than through HR or leaders—a bottom-up approach, as opposed to just top-down.

Last year, Bersin’s High-Impact People Analytics research revealed that only 2 percent of surveyed organizations are highly mature in people analytics. That tiny percentage has granted us an advance look at how to put people analytics to work. The most mature functions not only integrate it throughout their enterprises but also focus it on addressing business problems, enhancing the quality of day-to-day decision-making, and expanding its accessibility and use through robust insight delivery systems. The purpose of people analytics in these few high-performing companies? Enhanced workforce productivity and performance.

Going forward, we predict people analytics will become a principal supporting factor in the growing autonomy (and productivity) of the individual, empowering each person with the insights to help them do their best work.

People analytics will support individuals in the flow of work.

Today, most organizations that have adopted people analytics still use the insights it delivers for the benefit of the HR function: to help improve people processes, to better plan for needed workforce capacity and capabilities, and to effectively attract, manage, develop, retain, engage, and reward people. Tomorrow, more organizations will embed people analytics in the flow of work to enable people to increase their productivity and improve their performance on their own.

As the key user of people analytics shifts from HR or leaders to the individual, the personalized performance and development indicators, insights, and prescriptive actions it can deliver will come to the fore—raising the benefits exponentially. Organizations will still need to pay careful attention to data security, privacy, and ethical issues. But individuals may feel less concerned about their employers monitoring email and meeting behavior if they reap direct benefits of that activity—for instance, automatically generated suggestions about which meetings to attend or skip, and which people to meet with or avoid. Organizational network analysis and meeting metadata make this possible. These insights alone could result in enormous productivity enhancements, given the time spent in meetings.

Similarly, facial scanning and analysis delivers confidential and proactive behavioral nudges: your phone can tell you that you appear to be stressed and suggest a five-minute break before your upcoming team meeting.

Finally, individuals will benefit from tips on how to be more engaged and happy at work—using the same data organizations have been collecting for decades, with the individual as the beneficiary and owner. They’ll also receive learning suggestions based on real-time performance indicators. All of these are possible and available today.

This is not George Orwell’s “Big Brother.” This is individuals owning their own data—and productivity. People analytics will drive up the productivity of the entire enterprise by helping the workforce help itself become more effective and happier at work.

People analytics will free up leaders to enable the productive workplace.

When people analytics empowers individuals to manage their own work and engagement more effectively, the role of leaders at all levels shifts. Instead of devoting the lion’s share of their time and attention at the individual level, leaders will be able to apply their efforts to driving productivity at the group or team level.

People analytics will help leaders make the workplace a better place to work. It will enable them to determine which technologies and environmental features support productivity and which ones hinder it. In doing so, people analytics will help leaders remove obstacles to collective productivity.

Better yet, people analytics will deliver its benefits in real-time. Aggregated data feeds into people analytics systems will provide leaders with early warnings regarding workforce engagement issues, roadblocks to productivity, retention issues, and even burnout or safety signals. Leaders will get insights and suggested actions proactively, rather than having to dig for them. Today, most organizations require leaders to stop their work and go to a separate place to slice and dice data for actionable insights. Not surprisingly, many never find the time. In the coming year, prescriptive insights will become an expectation—real-time, work-embedded insights accompanied by suggested actions nudging the expected behavior.

The people analytics-enabled workplace will become a reality.

It will fall to HR, and particularly, the people analytics team, to thoroughly integrate people analytics with all people-related systems and embed them all in the flow of work. Rather than running reports and looking for insights, the people analytics team will create the environment in which people are equipped to take action quickly and seamlessly.

To accomplish that, vast amounts of structured and unstructured data—operational, people, financial, and customer, both internal and external—will be collected and correlated to identify what exactly drives business outcomes. Organizations will be able to accomplish this using various next-generation technologies such as AI, machine learning, and cognitive computing. This, in turn, will require the people analytics team to build closer and more intimate connections across and outside the enterprise, and to more rigorously monitor the use of people data to ensure it is ethical and secure.

Looking Ahead

HR leaders have talked about people analytics for years, and now we’re on the cusp of an explosion in its use and application. HR will certainly play a central role in attaining its long-promised and much-needed productivity benefits. Technologies are here to make this happen and are accessible and affordable to much broader populations than ever before. But, to really transform people analytics, the more savvy organizations will treat the workforce—not HR and not leaders—as the customer of people analytics. The opportunity ahead is vast: By understanding that the individual is at the heart of their business, organizations will turn people analytics from a backward-looking HR activity focused on reporting the past into a workforce and business benefit, and in doing so empower each person to do their best work and grow their career—and ultimately be more productive.

Bersin will continue to explore this trend in the coming year, with deeper dives on the findings from our High-Impact People Analytics research. We will look at the ways in which organizations are exploring new listening channels, boosting data literacy across the organization, and embedding data-driven decision making in their cultures.

Every day from November 26 through December 6, Bersin will be sharing perspectives on the most timely, relevant, and interesting developments for HR professionals to watch in 2019. Check back daily or visit on December 18 for a consolidated report with all of the predictions.

Kathi EnderesKathi Enderes, PhD, is vice president and talent & workforce research leader at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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