People & Leadership

How HR leaders can use people analytics to manage a remote workforce

If remote working is set to become the new norm, HR leaders need clear people data. Here’s how to successfully manage a remote workforce.

It’s hard to believe we’ll ever completely get back to the way we worked before the pandemic.

From commuting just a few paces from the sitting room to the home office to repeating the words “you’re on mute” to multiple colleagues while on calls, the office has become a distant memory, as many of us around the world have adapted to home working as a result of the pandemic.

While some of us are looking forward to getting back into an office, the majority don’t want to return to the same working life we had before.

In fact, 75% of global office workers say they want to continue to work from home at least once a week when the pandemic is over, and 84% of global employees say they want a mix of both home and office working.

It means a new hybrid workforce is likely to emerge and, as a result, there’s never been a more important time for HR and People leaders to tap into people analytics to stay informed and understand what your people need from you.

While exploring people data can give you so many invaluable answers, there are some that are absolutely vital for understanding a remote workforce.

Here are four areas where people analytics can help support HR teams, and why they’re particularly important for remote or hybrid workforces:

1. Explore employee absence and wellbeing-related patterns

2. Delve into employee productivity

3. Analyse employee feedback easily

4. Identify flight risks early

People analytics is paramount to successful remote working

 Many of us are guilty of not turning off our laptops dead-on finishing time each day, starting early, or purely taking on more while we’re working from home.

And it’s starting to show in the number of employees experiencing burnout.

A staggering 69% of employees say they’re affected by burnout, and that figure appears to be on the rise.

In an office, we know it’s much easier for managers to notice when their employees don’t seem themselves, aren’t starting on time, and generally showing signs of overwork.

But with employees working anywhere now, organisations need to become more reliant on data to understand how they can support their employees further.

Through using people analytics, HR and People leaders can track absence trends to know where to target support, such as wellbeing and mental health initiatives.

You might also want to look into productivity-related metrics to understand how employees are performing.

If they’re underperforming, you’ll want to dig more into why to see if there’s an underlying reason linked to employee wellbeing.

Looking into these numbers is also a good way to find out where managers should be playing a bigger role in supporting wellbeing, along with the ways they themselves they need to be supported in order to help their teams.

Remote and hybrid work isn’t going away anytime soon.

So getting to grips with people data to understand absence and wellbeing patterns will help your HR and People team to come up with solutions to support your people in the right way.

You ask any C-suite exec in the business right now, and one question they’d love to know the answer to is: “How productive is our remote workforce?”

Now, any HR leader would know there’s not exactly a straightforward answer but there are several metrics that can help you to uncover how productive your employees are and how you can help them be more productive.

After all, your employees are your biggest asset – you want to make sure they are in a position where they can do their best work, despite the disruption we’ve all experienced during the pandemic.

A survey is always a good place to start.

Ask your remote workers how productive they feel they’re being, how close they feel they are to hitting their goals and objectives, and what they need to be more productive.

For the latter, it might be they need better home equipment, email-free hours in the evenings to achieve a better work-life balance, or anything that is needed to make them feel happier and more engaged.

From there, you can take action and implement some of the suggestions they have.

If there are wider issues, you might want to ask your employees if they’d be happy to have a conversation with HR to delve into some of the problems they’re facing, either in a focus group setting or one-to-one.

Managers can also regularly check in to see where employees are with their goals and objectives, and what’s standing in their way from them being achieved on time.

And likewise, HR can take a look to see how goals and objectives have or haven’t been hit across the board.

Gaining insights around performance means you are equipped to improve the employee experience so people can work more comfortably and productively, and tackle some of the issues and take action on some of the suggestions employees may have to boost their productivity.

So many factors can impact how we feel about our work – and it only takes one of these to change how we feel overall about the organisation we work for.

As an example, Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70% variation in employee engagement scores.

So if an employee’s manager changes, it can hugely affect how engaged they are and ultimately, how they feel overall about the business.

Now, add this into the context of remote working.

Understanding employee feedback has always been vital. But just like most of the other points we’ve discussed, employees who haven’t worked remotely before might be struggling to air their concerns in the way they did before.

Global pulse surveys are just one of the ways you can understand more about your employees on a regular basis.

While there are so many questions you might want to ask your employees, employee net promoter score (or eNPS) is a great way of reporting back on a monthly, quarterly, or half-yearly basis to see how likely your employees would recommend their workplace to others, which gives you an overall level of employee satisfaction.

You could also analyse the data by region, department or type of role.

Continuous conversations and one-to-ones with managers on a regular basis also provide immediate feedback from employees, helping to identify issues as they arise.

Understanding what your employees think in the current moment through pulse surveys and continuous conversations can help gauge and measure wellbeing and engagement, and support you in creating great employee experiences and initiatives your employees will love.

Employees will always be the biggest asset a business has. And when they walk away, they take with them years of knowledge.

Of course, it’s possible to replace an employee, but it’ll cost you in both time and money. In fact, £3,000 is the average cost per hire and 27.5 days is the time to hire, according to Glassdoor.

That’s huge.

While identifying someone who’s a flight risk might be simpler in an office, remote working also brings an added complication where you might not see the warning signs or not see them quick enough.

While moving away from gut feel and more towards data for HR leaders has been near top of the to-do list for years, remote work has upped the ante on really understanding your people through numbers.

Being able to identify whether workers are happy – or if there is an unusually high turnover in one department or among a certain level of staff – can help with succession planning and, in turn, productivity.

It also means you can delve into why using even more precise data so you can gain actionable insight and begin to resolve any issues.

People analytics helps HR leaders understand the trends around employee tenure, such as how long your employees are staying with the business, so you can implement initiatives to encourage longer employment.

People analytics was important before – but now it’s vital to understanding the workforce in the new age of remote working.

Recent events have shone a light on the need for HR and People teams to use actionable insights to inform decision-making around not only remote working but many other areas that need focus.

Businesses are keen to skill up for the future and get buy-in they need to have these insights at their fingertips.

In fact, 57% of HR leaders we polled in our latest research say actionable insights and people data to guide business decisions has become a priority.

Now is the time for organisations to look to people data to understand more about their employees and uncover insights they didn’t have before, to enable their organisation to get ahead and drive even better experiences for them in the emerging world of work.

HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR

What are the changing perceptions and expectations of HR? Find out what 1,500+ professionals and what they said about how HR is changing.

Download the report