Performance Management

9 Best Practices for Implementing People Analytics

By Betterworks
November 28, 2018
8 minute read

Data requires a buy-in from every level of an organization to reveal it’s true impact. Like many other aspects of modern industry, half measures prevent an enterprise from reaching maximum productivity, expanding its customer base, or elevating its brand. Analytics and the data that drives it is no different, requiring cohesive, comprehensive adoption across the entire organization, from marketing and logistics to finance and HR. Any weak link that heavily relies on intuition or other outdated forms of strategizing is doing the whole enterprise a disservice.

In looking specifically at the data and processes that stem from an organization’s workforce — people analytics — what might be rooted in HR has a widespread effect on every level of an enterprise. People analytics, the usage of data sets that allow companies to quantify the broad-ranging effectiveness of their workforce, requires specialized systems and procedures to generate useful and actionable insights.

Have a Plan

To make the most of people analytics, organizations are well-served taking a deliberate and systematic approach in establishing a foundation across an enterprise, earning that ever-important buy-in from departments and personnel, and implementing systems that transform people data into authentic, revealing insight.

Leveraging our own expertise in critical feedback platforms and people analytics, Betterworks Engage has put together a set of nine best practices to best integrate people analytics within an organization. As you’ll see, meticulous planning, an open mind, and flexibility to change course all go a long way in helping an enterprise take full advantage of the prescient insights afforded by people analytics.

1. Foster Data-Based Decision Making

Success stems from effective decision-making that takes all available information into account and makes intelligent choices for the betterment of the organization. In the era of big data and analytics, organizations now have access to a wealth of precise, real-time information to base their decisions. Fostering a decision making culture across an enterprise that utilizes targeted data as its primary driver establishes a sound foundation for people analytics to grow from.

A culture that holds people analytics as a pillar is one that encourages innovative thought and spirit, is open-minded to calculated risk-taking, and places a continuous emphasis on learning and development. Enterprises that place sufficient attention and effort to data-based decision display a set of similar characteristics, including:

  • Decision makers prioritize an evidence-based strategy rooted in authentic, pertinent data rather than intuition
  • Technology and appropriate metrics actively monitor for accountability and transparency in action and performance
  • Individuals and teams utilize hypothesis testing to make informed decisions and learn from mistakes
  • Management uses KPIs to gauge individual, group, departmental, and organizational performance, tracking trends and making real-time changes as dictated by the data

While the KPIs will obviously change according to the audience and needs, emphasizing their importance is a critical component of maintaining a focus on data throughout the enterprise. Organizations that continue to educate their workforce on the metrics, why they’re so vital to operations, and how they fit into the larger picture will develop an understanding across their employees and teams that people analytics flourish within.

2. Data Management

People analytics only reaches its potential within an enterprise if the data that drives it is properly organized and managed. In fact, this notion has traditionally been a significant barrier to organizations, not historically lacking for the data itself but, instead, lacking the ability to gather and analyze it in a cohesive and productive manner. Use these basic best practices to manage data and give your people analytics systems an efficient and effective base to operate from:

  • Establish data governance policies that define and dictate individual responsibilities over the accuracy, uniformity, and reliability of an enterprise’s data
  • Since HR will likely task IT with the upkeep of the analytics systems, IT should also align the different datasets and definitions to the proper stakeholders, including IT itself and HR but also finance, accounting, and any other department that is reliant on specific subsets of data
  • Use a core set of three or four KPIs as the basis of HR’s strategy and decision making, including the active monitoring and analysis of key metrics like attrition, absenteeism, recruiting, or any other quantitative measures that impact the workforce and organization

3. Find an Effective Mix of Analytical Tools

The market for data mining, analysis, and visualization tools grows by the day. In theory, such an abundance of choices in analytical platforms should make it easy for organizations to assemble an ideal mix that makes gathering, interpreting, and transforming people data into actionable insights easy. However, such a dizzying variety often leaves many enterprises on the outside looking in as they procrastinate in decisions or, perhaps even worse, land on solutions that don’t sync well with one another and are fraught with inefficiencies.

Overcoming technology barriers and finding an effective mix of analytical tools is an essential step in implementing people analytics. To that point, recent research has shown that 44% of organizations recognize that inadequate investment in HR-oriented platforms has made people analytics more challenging to utilize sufficiently.Effective Mix of Analytical Tools

Likewise, 54% of surveyed enterprises state that unreliable, imprecise, and poorly organized data also add to their people analytics difficulties. Obviously, many enterprises are failing to identify that effective mix of analytical tools to fully leverage people analytics. A few simple tips can help organizations resolve those issues and quickly put people analytics to work in a far more beneficial manner.

  • Experiment with different modern tools and take advantage of free trial periods to minimize the financial impact of your choices
  • Start with an updated or newer version of an ERP platform with sufficient and adaptable HR modules that are scalable and readily communicate with the most useful analytical systems
  • Look for comprehensive solutions from reputable vendors with good track records and excellent customer service that can address multiple needs like data mining and analysis within a single platform
  • Place particular consideration towards the UI, choosing solutions that are user-friendly and don’t create another barrier to widespread adoption of people analytics in the enterprise due to a confusing interface and functions

4. Use Questions and Unknowns as a Guide

Every successful journey begins by knowing where you want to end up and then planning the best route. From an enterprise perspective, this notion is fulfilled by having a thorough understanding of goals as well as any deficiencies preventing an organization from reaching its maximum potential. For that reason, finding two or three central questions or unknowns responsible for primary pain points is a useful starting point for developing a stronger relationship with data and the insights it provides.

Once participants have identified these unknowns, the data required to reveal the drivers behind the pain points can be instrumental in developing ongoing processes that continually collect, interpret, and leverage vital data. From an HR and management perspective, some of those enlightening questions typically include:

  • Does my workforce contain the talent needed to reach organizational goals?
  • Which current employees have the highest ceilings?
  • How much is attrition costing the organization?
  • How is the employee experience and culture affecting individual and enterprise performance?

Depending on the specific weaknesses within any given culture, the very act of compiling and analyzing data needed to answer those questions on an ongoing basis can be an incredibly powerful driver of a robust people analytics strategy.

5. Efficient Research

As mentioned, organizations aren’t lacking for data in this hyperconnected, digitized world. The problem, of course, is that seemingly endless reams of information still don’t do an enterprise much good if it doesn’t use targeted, insightful data as the focal point to research and strategy. For people analytics purposes, a good rule of thumb is to concentrate on data and processes that can add value to the organization in some way.

Efficient Research

Look at organizational goals relative to the workforce, employee-based goals to obtain, and use KPIs and other quantitative tools to make certain all analytical efforts address areas that need to be monitored and improved to add value. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get caught up in an ocean of data and lose both focus and impact.

6. Transform the Data to Action

The best data tells a story. It fills in the blanks for the first and second acts of the narrative and, if interpreted correctly, provides a distinct direction for the final act. Put another way, assuming you’ve effectively gathered your people data by letting precise and immediate feedback chart your course, people analytics will reveal the most effective next steps in the process. Data that sits idly by and never gets transformed into action is just as useful as no data or insight at all. Aside from efficiency and productivity metrics, converting your data into actionable insight has other benefits as well, including:

  • Forms formidable strategic insights when coupled with the experience and business acumen of an organization’s management talent
  • Provides strong evidence to employees and other stakeholders that data is an essential component to operations and people-based decision making, further solidifying the foothold that people analytics can realize within the organization
  • HR and other stakeholders can substantiate their decision making regarding personnel or other facets of the workforce with pertinent data that led to the actions taken

7. Have Realistic Expectations

If an enterprise is new to people analytics or overhauling their existing processes, retaining realistic expectations is important. Utilizing something as powerful as data-driven people analytics can play a pivotal role in maximizing an organization’s workforce, but a stable foundation must first be established so an enduring, beneficial system is built on top of it.

Realistic Expectations

The majority of any people analytics project is spent on determining the scope, direction, and techniques best utilized as well as the data collection itself. Beneficial technology, efficient internal procedures, and an informed, cohesive perspective amongst the different stakeholders must first be inline before analysis and subsequent action take place. All of these various components take time and effort but, on the bright side, become far faster and more streamlined with practice. Patience is, in fact, a virtue and will be well-rewarded if an organization is deliberate in its implementation of an efficient, purposefully designed people analytics framework.

8. Constantly Monitor for Compliance

All industries are subject to data and information regulations, some are just more stringent than others. No matter what industry an enterprise serves, there must always be an internal vetting process that ensures an organization’s data collection, analysis, and utilization falls within compliance standards and guidelines.

Monitor for Compliance

An enterprise’s legal team and other relevant parties should be a part of the overall data throughput, particularly as it concerns people analytics and potentially sensitive information. Given the harsh spotlight placed on social media and marketing firms in recent months concerning data privacy — as well as GDPR and other regulatory forces — it simply makes good business sense to maintain a constant eye on compliance guidelines. Otherwise, both the legal ramifications and damage to a brand can be devastating.

9. Use Continuous Feedback to Drive the Process

People analytics is dependent on sound, insightful data to drive the entire process. Unfortunately, the people data stemming from an organization’s workforce has traditionally been viewed as subtle and qualitative, difficult to integrate within a quantitative system that is dependent on KPIs and other metrics for guidance and transparency. However, those traditional notions are no longer limiting forces in an effective people analytics strategy.

People data can now be gathered, analyzed, and transformed using targeted, immediate feedback that reveals even nuanced data points within an employee base. Employers that fully leverage such abilities are those that collect feedback on a continuous basis, not just once or even sporadically. When an enterprise is constantly collecting and transforming feedback, it is perpetually driving action and growth as well.

This is precisely where Betterworks Engage’s feedback solutions can lend such a competitive advantage in maximizing both the individual contributions of a single employee as well as the overall workforce. Through frequent surveys, pulse polls, heat maps, and other technology-driven tools, Betterworks Engage gives enterprises immediate insights that efficiently identify strengths, weaknesses, and rising trends that can be integrated into an overarching people analytics strategy that is forward-looking, precise, and rooted in real-time data.

Organizations that best leverage the wide-reaching abilities of people analytics will be more agile, efficient, and informed than the competition. Using Betterworks Engage’s feedback tools ensures the data feeding the people analytics is authentic, pertinent, and immediate. With Betterworks Engage as a partner in your enterprise’s analytics strategy, you’ll always have the vital information needed to make the most of your workforce and talent.


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