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Data-driven people management is quickly becoming one of the most reliable methods of human resource development. Modern data collection systems allow managers to understand their company environment and make well-informed decisions.

The people analytics plan is a process of collecting data, interpreting reports, and making actionable decisions from those reports. You can easily implement this model in your company by combining your existing data with effective feedback software. Officevibe, TINYpulse and CultureAmp are some of the big players in this space but there are also some new players emerging. Remember to approach all data with the intent to analyze, understand, and ultimately make considerate choices that reflect the needs of your staff.

Know How to Use Your Feedback System

Every member of your human resources team should be trained to use and understand your analytics system's interface. If you don't know how to pull up relevant reports, isolate specific metrics, or create meaningful surveys, you won't be able to develop analytics that make sense for your company.

Familiarize yourself with the terms used by your employee experience platform. Understand the difference between employee engagement and survey results.

Next, make sure that you know how to read the data reports. A surprisingly common mistake is to read a graph without identifying the metrics represented by each axis. Data can mean something completely different when read across days or over months. Always double check the headers before you attempt to interpret any graph; this small step will save you from incorrect conclusions.

You should also check your software to see if you can change the way that data is displayed. Click through menus, toggle checkboxes, and explore every avenue of the interface. When you return to the software with strategy-related questions, this familiarity will let you instantly find the information you need.

Consider holding a training meeting to answer common questions about the software. Data-driven decisions can only happen if the data is well understood.

Manage Data Collection Correctly

Data is only useful if it is of high quality. The most vital features of an employee survey are anonymity, frequency, and relevance. A survey that has been managed incorrectly should be rejected from the data pool.

Anonymity is of the highest importance; if team members worry that management will connect their name to their answers, they will not be honest in their responses. Anonymity can be difficult to promise in smaller departments, especially if the HR manager reading the survey is familiar with the respondents. One way to ensure that data is anonymous is to review it well after the survey takes place.

Frequency is important because it ensures that data is relevant to the current working conditions. A yearly satisfaction survey taken around the holidays will give unusually positive results. Consistent monthly surveys are more representative of normal employee mentality; when reviewed together, they can paint a picture of working conditions across the year.

Relevant questions are vital to meaningful surveys. Create survey questions that are worded carefully and which only ask for the most useful information. Take advantage of standardized questions so that you can compare your company to others in the same industry.

Survey development is worth your time and attention. Make sure that your campaigns actually address employee pain points; if they don't feel able to leave honest feedback, your survey results will be skewed.

Maintain Data Security

When you collect employee data, maintaining the security of that data is of utmost important. Communicate with your company's IT department to ensure that data collection is being handled in a secure and ethical manner. They can confirm the anonymity of responses and encrypt data so that it cannot be accessed by unauthorized staff members.

Remember to handle individual survey responses with great care in your internal communications. Don't take responses out of the feedback software, and do not attempt to discover the employee that submitted any given response.

Employee feedback should never be tied to internal employee files. You should also avoid identifying specific departments unless this information is necessary for data relevance. The smaller your company is, the more steps you will need to take to separate feedback from identity.

Encourage Employee Involvement

When team members don't respond to a survey, the resultant data is incomplete. Since these surveys must be anonymous, it's never wise to pressure your staff to complete them. There are easier ways to encourage team members to engage with surveys so that you can make informed decisions.

Start with shorter surveys. Employees want to get back to work and will always choose the task on their desks over a long job satisfaction survey. Pulse surveys are usually only a few questions long; these surveys have been shown to be significantly more effective.

Increasing the frequency of surveys can be a good way to reduce pressure while giving your employees more opportunities to answer. Many team members forget to answer a survey while they are busy and regret missing the window. Send the same campaign multiple times, but don't expect every employee to respond to each round. Use language that makes it clear when a survey is optional. This will get you more data while respecting employee schedules.

Employee engagement is a fine line and should be approached carefully. Make decisions that reflect your company's individual culture.

Know How to Interpret the Data

Data reports don't always mean what you think they mean. When you're faced with a large number, ask what might be causing that discrepancy.

Understand that correlation does not imply causation. A drop in employee satisfaction might be related to a change in the perks program, but it could also be related to an issue with management. Review all possible data to make more informed conclusions.

Because context is so crucial to the interpretation of data, it's important to consider external factors in your analysis. Compare your data to reports from external companies and related departments. When you find a discrepancy, pull up information specific to that team or situation. You may find an obvious answer that is not apparent when looking at a spreadsheet.

Always consider every way that a piece of data could be interpreted before you include it in an official report. As an HR manager, you are given the opportunity to filter data and make conclusions. Extra attention will result in better decisions for the company as a whole.

Identify Areas of Interest

Some metrics represent extreme costs to a company. Unscheduled absences can cost a company thousands of dollars in a year. Similarly, employee turnover is expensive, and thus employee satisfaction metrics are a necessary gauge of the potential separation rate.

Although these high-tension metrics will be of immediate interest, look for smaller numbers that may be indicators of actions that the company can take. Notice when a normally consistent metric suddenly drops or rises; take a moment to explore why that might have happened.

It's also important to understand when a metric change does not require immediate attention. Employee absences may suddenly rise in the spring when kids go back to school; this is more likely to be caused by flu season than by an issue with company satisfaction. It is only when these absences remain consistent that the metric becomes worth discussing.

Create Action Driven Plans

Once you have identified a metric of interest and understood the problem that the data represents, put together an actionable plan to address that problem.

This may sound simple, but it is one of the most complicated aspects of data-driven people management. The solution to a company problem may not always be immediately apparent.

Some problems are quite easy to solve. A job satisfaction survey with a unanimously negative response to the company's sick day policy can be corrected with a better health plan. Complaints about a lack of vegetarian menu options can be solved by communicating with the cafeteria.

More complicated metrics may actually lead to in-depth business strategies. If you notice a metric that is directly relevant to one of your company's departments, speak with lead members of that department to find a strategy that takes your data into account. Employee satisfaction and productivity will inevitably result in gains for your company across the board.

Every piece of relevant data will suggest an actionable plan. Think about the problems represented by the data, and follow those problems with solutions that work within the scope of your company.

Communicate the Data in an Effective Manner

When you are ready to present your actionable plans to the company director, make sure that your relevant data is available and easy to read. Don't expect executive members to learn to use your data collection software; they may have the ability and interest, but they won't always have the time.

Export charts and graphs and include them in your presentation. Remember to choose only the most relevant data items. Include bullet points that explain why the data is relevant and how you collected it. Be prepared to answer questions about any items that you place on the screen.

Data should always be presented before the plan inspired by that data. Present a problem for consideration; follow it with a solution. This leaves room for lead team members to suggest alternative solutions. External perspectives are necessary when developing a cohesive business strategy. When you bring human resources data to the table, don't be too attached to your solutions; other departments may have information that changes the necessary course of action. Instead, remain focused on the needs of the staff as evidenced by the data you have collected.

Make Decisions with Data in Mind

The data you collect through your feedback software represents the attitudes and needs of your team. Keep this data in mind as you make normal people management decisions.

When you are about to implement a new benefits package, consider how recent metrics reflect upon this decision. A rewards package that focuses on time off will not increase satisfaction among team members who are worried about their level of pay. On the other side of the spectrum, remember to reward teams who show incredibly high levels of satisfaction; when staff members are productive, it can be easy to forget to continue providing perks and benefits.

Data review should be a regular part of your management routine. Understand the general attitude of the staff in your company and use that information to make intelligent and considerate decisions throughout your workday.

Remember to Respect Individuals

The fear of any data-driven decision process is that the needs of your staff will be lost within the numbers. Individual complaints may not show up in large statistics, but they are still highly relevant to your company's decision-making process.

Take advantage of your feedback software's anonymous messaging feature to communicate with team members directly. Employees experience company policy from a ground floor perspective. If they feel able to directly articulate a concern, this information may be more valuable than a pile of satisfaction surveys.

At the same time, remember that one employee does not speak for the entire team. It's important to maintain a balance of addressing employee concerns while pushing the business towards productivity.

Both data and direct communications should be taken into consideration as a cohesive whole. When employee communications and analytic reports provide the same information, you can be completely confident in the resultant decisions.

The goal of data collection is to make informed and conscientious decisions about employee policy. Data reports can provide extremely detailed insights that result in extremely profitable courses of action. Successful programs require you to maintain the integrity of your data, identify the most relevant pieces of information, and create actionable plans with that information. If you accomplish all of these aspects, your company will be able to create rich benefits programs that actually address the needs of your staff.
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