People Science: How to know your employees as well as you know your customers

Published · 4 min read

Every day, 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data is created. That’s so much data that it would fill 10 million Blu-ray discs – which, stacked up on top of each other, would reach the height of not just one but four Eiffel Towers.

And that’s growing every day. In fact, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years. The age of big data is well and truly here.

As a result, companies have a wealth of information about their customers at their fingertips – from their buying habits, to their style preferences and lifestyle choices. Companies know what type of products different consumers prefer, how they like to engage with their brand and when they may be most likely to buy from them.

And, as a result, their buying experience is constantly optimised, improved and tailored to each consumer.

But what if you had the same level of insight and visibility concerning your employees? What if you knew where every high-potential employee could add most value? What about how your staff prefer to work? Or who is likely to become a flight risk?

Imagine the impact on your company’s performance if you tapped into this and knew your employees as well as your customers.

You could revolutionise the way you work and engage with your people, designing great workforce experiences that enable your employees to do their best work – ultimately improving performance and productivity. All due to increased workforce visibility achieved through better data reporting, analytics and actionable insights.

The answer lies in using People Science in your organisation.

What is People Science?

People Science means applying data-driven approaches to improve workforce visibility – and how you both manage and engage your workforce. It’s about understanding people and their behaviour in your company, and generating more actionable insights to help you make better business decisions about your workforce.

People Science is more than just people analytics. In practice, it means not just mining data and reporting it – but analysing it and gaining actionable insights to test hypotheses and identify solutions.

Analysing data about your people can lead to them having a better experience in the workplace
Analysing data about your people can lead to them having a better experience in the workplace

How to use People Science in your company

With People Science, you can use data to develop stronger and predictive insights about your people and their motivations. Those insights can be applied to make more informed evidence-based decisions. The data can then be used for predictive purposes, so you can start to understand and make decisions based on people’s behaviour and motivations.

Currently, sales, marketing and operations teams are using data to plan and measure objectives and gain actionable insight and visibility, meaning they can demonstrate the value of their contributions to the business and its bottom line.

So too should HR and people teams as the department responsible for any organisation’s biggest asset: its people. That’s what People Science is all about.

Five steps you can take on your People Science journey

Apart from a simple headcount report, fewer than 50% of organisations today can deliver same-day metrics such as top and bottom performers, skills gaps, and attrition levels.

In fact, only 34% of companies are currently using data and analytics for making people decisions, according to our recent research report. In this world where some businesses currently operate on spreadsheets, or struggle to aggregate data from multiple sources, the ambition to use People Science to boost visibility and drive business performance will involve several steps.

People data

The journey starts – and you should start – with having accurate and accessible people data. That means your business should hold all its data in one place and one system – a single source of truth.

People reporting

Establishing a single source of truth enables the next step, which is to begin people reporting. This is the most common requirement for your HR and people teams, which may already create charts and dashboards to visualise the data and create those all-important report packs for the board meeting.

This enables your HR and people leaders to access simple information such as headcount reports in seconds instead of days.

People analysis

From there, the next step is people analysis, where you can analyse the data and identify trends. You should dig into the detail to explore the why behind the what. What are the consistent patterns? Why are they occurring? And what can be done about them? For example, identifying those most likely to be a flight risk, or those least engaged.

People insights

Next is establishing people insights; here, you should test hypotheses and predictions based on the analysis already done. If your HR and people teams have made assumptions based on the analysis they hold, then here is where they test those to ascertain if they are correct and, as a result, identify solutions.

This might mean identifying why employees might be a flight risk and understanding the different possible factors or explanations behind this.

People Science

Finally, use these solutions to make smarter business decisions and design better ways of working is the ultimate end goal. In the example of identifying those most likely to leave it, would mean knowing not only why but what can be done to fix this and implementing a solution. Organisations that do this use People Science.

People Science can play an important role when it comes to recruitment
People Science can play an important role when it comes to recruitment

Putting People Science into action

The benefits of using People Science in your organisation are vast. Caoimhe Keogan, VP of people at SoundCloud, uses data to find the right people to hire. “We spend a lot of the time analysing the data we have available in a hunt for nuggets of insight that could ultimately prove to be valuable in our hiring processes,” she says.

Soo J Hong, chief human resources officer at WeWork, also says it isn’t just about accessing data and then reporting it. It’s a matter of being analytical and deriving useful insight. “For every interview we do, we have a very simple scorecard: thumbs up or thumbs down,” she says.

“We look at this data retrospectively against the hires we make, comparing it with the interviewing panel that were involved with hiring that person. We then look at how the hire is doing after 90 days or even six months.

“This way we can start to see who the best culture testers are in our company from an interview panel standpoint. It is amazing to see in the data who is most effective at candidate assessment.”

Why you should use People Science – and why now

With People Science, you can boost workforce visibility and design better insight-driven workforce experiences for your people to ensure you attract and retain the best.

Low unemployment and the war for talent have given people choice, meaning you need to work harder to recruit high-performing talent. This is magnified by a culture of employee mobility, especially among millennials, meaning retention is more vital than ever. And every employee has different needs and priorities.

Isn’t it about time you start understanding these different motivations? Isn’t it about time you start knowing your employees as well as you know our customers? Isn’t it about time you gain just as much insight from your workforce as you do from our other business functions?

Isn’t it about time you began using People Science in your organisation?

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