Supporting Talent When Remote Work Goes Flexible: Data Is Key

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Click to learn more about author Tom Ricks.

Studies repeatedly show that remote work is welcomed by the majority of employees. McKinsey research tells us that 80% enjoy working from home, which is good news for organizations that were concerned about employee sentiment. Better still, there are signs that productivity has either remained largely the same or actually increased in a remote working environment.

That productivity, combined with a positive sentiment toward remote work, are two reasons why so many businesses plan to stay the course and maintain flexible working options even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. As many as 59% of organizations anticipate that flex scheduling will continue when the world returns to normal, according to a report by insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

The long-term commitment to a distributed workforce creates some challenges for human resources professionals, but it also creates opportunities. Many HR directors and managers now have the ability to explore departmental data and use it to inform the decisions they make for the business. Now that employees are working from anywhere and in more fluid ways, the question we should all be asking is, “How can data be used to support workers and improve workflow within the department?”

Leverage Data to Redefine Policies and Process for Performance

In the early days of analytics, many enterprises relied on data scientists to make sense of their information. But as the amount of data has grown and its importance has increased, more people have begun to utilize data within their roles, including HR professionals.

In fact, nearly one-quarter (22%) of HR professionals already use data to make decisions on a daily basis, says research conducted by Accenture and commissioned by Qlik. That’s roughly a quarter of HR professionals who are using data to better understand and address any potential issues relating to the level of employee satisfaction, career aspirations, and prospective skills gaps throughout the organization.

The Hillsborough County Tax Collector Office in Tampa, Fla., is among those using data to create a better work environment for its employees and customers. Its staff includes more than 200 frontline customer service representatives and as many as 40 people who work in its call center. Each one is tasked with generating business and maintaining customer satisfaction. However, when the HR team looked into performance metrics, Brenden Chiaramonte, executive assistant at Hillsborough County Tax Collector Office, found that employees were prioritizing speed – getting the customer out the door as quickly as possible – over quality service.  

HR decided to lead the redesign of the customer service process to allow employees to focus on quality without feeling like the hammer would drop. From that point on, employees no longer felt like they had to pull 60 transactions a day to be a superstar performer, and could feel empowered to perform better with quality as the primary metric.

Data Literacy Can Drive Talent Acquisition and Retention

Expanding the ability to use data toward talent retention and hiring requires greater Data Literacy. Almost half (42%) of HR professionals feel overwhelmed when working with data at least once a week, and as a result, 38% opt to go with their gut when decisions need to be made. And while gut instinct draws from valuable individual experience, data draws from institutional experience that can help create a fuller picture. Data is a powerful additive to open discussion and engagement, providing a view into trends and outcomes that we may not be privy to as individuals but are still defining the experiences of people within the organization.  

Data Literacy education and training will allow more HR professionals to more confidently comprehend, work with, and even argue with data. Employer-run or self-assisted resources can transform the majority of HR professionals – even those who are initially intimidated by data or dismiss its value – into stronger and more well-rounded HR professionals.

Putting Data at the Heart of Employee Engagement

Few things are as important to an organization as employee engagement, and for good reason. Engaged employees are more likely to remain with their companies and are less likely to experience burnout.

A large factor in maintaining engagement is the relationships that are established and nurtured on the job. However, in a future that looks more remote and fluid, those in-person interactions will take on a new shape and engagement could suffer.

By using data-driven surveys to monitor employee satisfaction and expectations, businesses can more readily evaluate employee engagement trends to target areas where process changes and new programs can help increase engagement for a happier and more productive workforce.

Remember to Balance Data Accessibility and Governance

While there are a number of ways for organizations to use data to benefit both their operations as well as their staff, they should not do so at the expense of employee comfort or privacy. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, Data Governance must be factored in as HR professionals begin to collect and utilize employee data.

There should be clear guidance around ethical uses of employee data collection and analysis. Employees need to fully understand what data is being collected and how that data is being utilized, whether it involves job-specific elements like productivity or absenteeism, or external elements like health care or benefits uptake. It’s crucial for organizations to be upfront about intentions related to collecting and using HR data, or risk creating employee mistrust.

Employee Data Can Drive Meaningful Change

Whether collecting information on efficiency, work-from-home productivity, or how sick days impact the bottom line, employee data is an invaluable tool for improving policies and people processes. When HR better understands data and its potential, an often-overlooked resource quickly augments the HR professional’s ability to create meaningful change in employee experience regardless of where they live and work.

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