People Science: What if companies knew their people as well as they knew their 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 today was created within the last 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 continuously optimized, improved, and tailored to each consumer.

But what if companies had the same level of insight and visibility about their employees? What if they knew where every high-potential employee could add the most value? What about how their staff prefers to work? Who is likely to become a flight risk?

Imagine the impact on the company’s performance if an organization tapped into this and knew their employees as well as their customers. Companies could revolutionize the way that they work and engage their people, designing great workplace experiences that enable their employees to do their best work – ultimately improving performance and productivity. All thanks to increased workforce visibility, achieved through better data reporting, analytics, and actionable insights.

Enter, People Science.

People Science explained

People Science means applying data-driven approaches to improve workforce visibility – and how you both manage and engage your employees. It’s about understanding people and their behavior 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 analyzing it, and gaining actionable insights to test hypotheses and identify solutions.

With People Science, organizations can use data to develop stronger and predictive insights about their people and motivations. These insights can then be used to make more informed evidence-based decisions. The data can then be used for predictive purposes so that managers can start to understand and make decisions based on people behavior and motivations.

Currently, sales, marketing, and operations are all 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 organizations’ biggest asset: its people. That’s what People Science is all about.

From People Data to People Science: it’s a journey

Apart from a simple headcount report, fewer than 50% or organizations 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 gut feel and 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.

The journey starts with having accurate and accessible people data. That means companies holding all their data in one place – a single source of truth.

After establishing a single source of truth, this enables the next step, which is to begin people reporting. This is the most common requirement for HR and People teams, who may create charts and dashboards to visualize the data and create those all-important report packs for the board meeting.

From there, the next step is people analysis, where leaders can analyze the data and identify trends. They will 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?

Next, is establishing people insights, by testing hypotheses and predictions based on the analysis you have done. If 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.

Finally, using these solutions to make smarter business decisions and design better ways of working is the ultimate end goal. Organizations which do this, use People Science.

People Science in action

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

Soo J. Hong, Chief Human Resources Officer at WeWork, also says it is not 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.

She adds: “We look at this data retrospectively against the hires we make, comparing it with the interviewing panel that was involved in 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. We had some hypotheses initially, those we thought were real culture carriers, but it is amazing to see in the data, based on scorecards, based on who got hired and based on how these individuals performed, who is most effective at candidate assessment.”

Why People Science – and why now

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

Low unemployment and the war for talent have given people choices and organizations must 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 we started understanding these different motivations? Isn’t it about time we started knowing our employees as well as we know our customers? Isn’t it about time we gain just as much insight from our workforce as we do from our other business functions?

Find out more about how businesses are using People Science to get ahead. Download our research report from 500+ global HR and People leaders, or read our e-book on the five vital steps for increasing workforce visibility in your company.

Research Report: 500+ Global HR leaders on business growth challenges

Our latest survey report reveals business leaders' concerns about the growth challenges they face and the complexities of ensuring consistent, relevant and motivational HR practices.

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