People analytics give employers new tool to track, predict worker performance
Performance management analytics, or people analytics, are starting to change the way companies evaluate and predict employee productivity.
People analytics use AI and other technologies to analyze the massive amounts of data that organizations have on their workers to measure, report and understand employee performance. The technology is being used by companies, including eBay, Electronic Arts and Google, for everything from tracking traditional metrics likes sales and absenteeism to making predictions such as whether employees’ high school work experience (or lack thereof) or their commute time will impact their performance and attrition.
“The whole idea of performance management is under upheaval,” said David Weisbeck, chief strategy officer for the HR analytics firm Visier.
Tech titans such as IBM, with its Watson project, and Oracle are among the leaders in the field, with both offering cloud-based solutions that increasingly draw on their innovation in artificial intelligence. Several smaller companies are also making big advances with web-based systems, including BambooHR and Visier.
Granted, few companies are using people analytics now, but employers increasingly recognize the tech’s strong potential and expect to see a rapid rate of adoption. Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that 71 percent of companies consider people analytics a high priority.
The Deloitte report went on to say that people analytics in HR are “undergoing a seismic shift. It is no longer about finding interesting information and flagging it for managers: it is now becoming a business focused on using data to understand every part of a business operation.”
So exactly how do performance management analytics work? People analytics use a variety of artificial intelligence, algorithms and other advanced data-crunching technologies to monitor and collect data about employees’ personal and work lives, starting with the initial application process and continuing throughout their employment cycle. In addition to traditional HR information, the data can include things like email and web browsing habits, and all of that personal information that we as consumers have gotten used to having combed regularly in our digital lives.
The data then can be sliced and diced in multitudes of ways, depending on what the company wants to track, measure or learn more about. Most HR analytics companies now offer cloud solutions that put the results into easy-to-access dashboards that give quick snapshots of workers from multiple angles.
While the most popular uses of people analytics in HR revolve around the recruiting process and avoiding attrition, David Weisbeck, chief strategy officer for the HR analytics firm Visier, says he sees growing demand for performance management and compensation.
Indeed, a number of leading-edge employers have embraced people analytics.
EBay, for instance, turned to people analytics after its split from PayPal in 2015 to monitor for employee burnout as the company underwent an aggressive refresh of its strategy and culture.
The company partnered with a company called Slalom that developed a dashboard for the different initiatives, measuring five key data points: initiatives, milestones, milestone start and end dates, the employees involved and their level of effort.
With that information, eBay was able to identify overburdened workers and shift assignments and deadlines to better manage everyone’s capacity.
The Slalom project is just one of eBay’s many involving people analytics, according to Judy Dutton, the auction sites senior director of global talent and development, which, she said, has completely reinvented its performance management system.
Electronic Arts is also using people analytics. The video game company partnered with Visier to review workforce data alongside business data to better predict success for each game going to market.
Looking at the groups that develop, market and support each video game, the team compared employee attributes — such as engagement score, performance level, cost, manager, and span of control — with product data like game quality, financial results and customer satisfaction. By better understanding the characteristics of employees and groups that drive the best results, the team expects to gain insight into how to create more profitable games and improve company performance.
A key capability of the tools was its ability to quickly pull together data. Leonard Dandurand, the company’s group director of HR information services and workforce planning, estimates that Visier has saved the company about 24 weeks of labor per year, or half a senior analyst’s work year.
“More importantly, we have given HR the ability to self-serve and gain insight into the workforce where there may not have been the bandwidth to do so in the past,” he said.
Another company using the technology is Google, considered a leader in harnessing the power of people analytics to reinvent and improve people management. The company is often cited for its success in combining its wealth of data with human feedback to identify things like the positive effects of good managers and regular feedback on employee engagement and productivity.
Its senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, wrote in his book Work Rules! that the most important HR tool Google has is its statistics. The company also offers guides on its web site to help other organizations conduct surveys and set up their own people analytics.