Make It Count: How to Use People Analytics to Grow Your Company

Business.com / Hiring / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

In the ever-expanding field of big data, people analytics is emerging for companies that hope to engage, retain and motivate employees.

In the ever-expanding field of big data, people analytics is emerging as a segment of interest for companies that want to learn more about their customers and potential customers as well as employees and potential talent.

This information includes their motivations, desires, and how their overall demographic profile is involved in those motivations.

This article looks specifically at how people analytics is working from the inside out of an organization to achieve greater productivity that, in turn, produces the desired growth for established companies like Google, a company which we all know, as well as startups like Allset, an app that lets diners pre-order their lunch from various restaurants to help provide more efficient service.

Related Article: 7 Ways to Use Video to Grow Your Business Other Than Social Media

Learning About Communication in New Ways

Having the right people in place increases company performance and often results in those great ideas that attract more business and help the company grow. Studying how data can help a company determine who and what ignites this internal fire, Alex “Sandy” Pentland has employed people analytics.

In a 2012 Harvard Business Journal article entitled, The Science of Building Great Team, Pentland describes how he and this team conduct a team to look at communication and how it was employed.

Pentland explained how this new type of data that could be gathered changed the process of understanding how teams interacted and what made some successful:

But until recently we had never been able to objectively record such cues as data that we could then mine to understand why teams click. Mere observation simply couldn’t capture every nuance of human behavior across an entire team. What we had, then, was only a strong sense of the things—good leadership and followership, palpable shared commitment, a terrific brainstorming session—that made a team greater than the sum of its parts. Recent advances in wireless and sensor technology, though, have helped us overcome those limitations, allowing us to measure that ineffable “It factor.” The badges developed at my lab at MIT are in their seventh version. They generate more than 100 data points a minute and work unobtrusively enough that we’re confident we’re capturing natural behavior.

Pentland and his team have deployed them in 21 organizations over the past seven years, measuring the communication patterns of about 2,500 people for many weeks at a time. These badges provided people analytics, also known as sociometrics, providing a way to better understand how people interact, including the tone of their voice, whether they face each other, how they gesture and how often, how much they talk or interrupt, how often listen and their level of empathy.

This data is then compared to the teams that have been the most successful in order to create a set of data points that define the type of communication that truly produces results for a company. Pentland and his team found that it didn’t matter what type of team or industry the looked at, because the same data signatures kept appearing. This then told them what teams would succeed down to which ones would even win a business plan contest.

Having this knowledge about employees can then help a company change communication structures and the organizational culture to promote those data signatures most aligned with success. In return, the company can expect to achieve better growth results from the improved communication and teamwork.

Related Article: HR's New Weapon of Choice: People Analytics, Care of Big Data

Turning Recruitment & Hiring on Its Head

When it comes to recruitment and hiring, people analytics has also become more interesting to HR departments who are looking to identify that talent that most closely aligns with the organization and exhibits the behaviors they need for company growth. People analytics have become less about certain traits and more about how long it takes to answer a question, the consistency in answers to questions, or how they communicate in their responses to open-ended questions.

A Washington Post article noted that many companies have emerged to provide people analytics to organizations like AT&T to screen applicants to find those service people to build up their reputation and attract and retain more customers. 

And, what companies like Evolv are finding is that certain people cannot be dismissed as potential employees just because they made a mistake in their past, have been a job hopper, how long they have been unemployed or their low score on a general intelligence test because this could mean missing out on the type of talent that could really help the organization. The people analytics have shown that none of these factors actually influence job performance yet were used for decades to screen potential employees.

Instead, people analytics has shown that what does actually predict performance levels are things like someone’s commute distance, how many social networking sites they use, and whether they opt for a different browser. This is because the traits needed in sales for company growth are related to creativity, rapport, and the ability to make independent decisions.

Gild is another company that uses people analytics to look at programmers and the language used on professional networking sites to determine whether this would predicate the level of performance necessary to benefit the company.

Google’s Been Into People Analytics in a Big Way

Even a successful company like Google realize that people analytics can help them grow further. They recently completely revamped their HR department to only utilize data and analytics to make decisions about talent that are based in evidence rather than opinion. The company has used all types of analytics to better understand staff and predict certain behaviors that will either help or hinder the company’s growth.

These include its PiLab that tests the way to most effectively maintain a productive work environment, a retention algorithm, predictive modeling, diversity algorithm, workplace hiring algorithm, and workplace collaboration design modeling. Whatever it is that they are doing with these analytics, it sure seems to be working!

Research Proves It Works for Others, Too

Bersin by Deloitte conducted a study to determine whether talent analytics was really working for companies. The benefits it found within mature analytics organizations was that they were two times more likely to improve their recruiting efforts and leadership pipelines. Additionally, they were three times more likely to realize cost reductions and efficiency gains. Lastly, they were two and a half times more likely to improve talent mobility, which involves moving the right people into the right jobs.

For startups like Allset, which realized that people analytics would help shape their understanding of their target audience, these tools have proved useful in shaping how they market what they offer as a convenient service. It has helped them divide up their audience into various segments that are drawn to specific restaurants for various reasons. These reasons are then used to personalize marketing messages on social media to these groups as well as shared with restaurants so they can better serve their audience's preferences.

Related Article: Power of the People: Using Talent Analytics To Increase Your Bottom Line

It’s something that you need to determine works for your organization and aligns with your growth objectives. After all, business is a game and you want a team on your side of the field that helps score the most points.

Having the data that tells you which players are most likely to do that can help increase the likelihood that you will get more points and win. Then again, you can also grow your business by using people analytics on the customer side, but that’s a whole other article.

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