Know Your People: 3 Steps For Taking Action Based On People Analytics
By Dan Harrison, PhD - March 20, 2019
As we’ve noted previously on the blog, people analytics is about knowing your people. While knowledge is a good thing, it is of limited value unless it is put into action. In the context of people analytics, action is about understanding the data and the business’ specific challenges, and taking the right actions to solve them.
Action planning on insights derived from survey results or analytic research is sometimes needlessly overcomplicated. The planning process—working on different ideas, topic areas, or process steps—can often get in the way of taking action.
Because taking action is the critical step for improving business performance, it’s too important to be sidelined by complicated planning. To keep the focus where it belongs, Perceptyx emphasizes a simple 1-2-3 model:
- Identify one key issue to focus on.
- Identify two things to do about it.
- Communicate three times to the organization or team on actions and progress.
This article will focus on each of the steps in the 1-2-3 model for taking action.
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1. Identify one key issue of focus.
Too often, organizations try to “boil the ocean” after getting survey results—they attempt to do too much at one time. It is better to do one thing well than many things poorly.
Rather than trying to do everything at once, focusing on one issue simplifies the notion of taking action. Often, this one issue of focus will be linked to the biggest business problem identified by leaders. That focus may change as leaders and managers communicate with the rest of the organization; given that all survey items are correlated, discussion of the focus topic area may reveal that something else is more important.
However, don’t get too wrapped up in data—it identifies opportunities, but what matters more is that you communicate with employees to find out what they think. Keep in mind that the survey is a useful tool, but at some point, it needs to fade into the background in favor of open conversation, which may change the focus.
Also, because many survey items are related, you may see improvements in other areas peripheral to your focus. For example, if teamwork is the focus of action, you may find that survey scores for communication and engagement improve as well. Often, the fact that action has been taken will instill optimism in employees, which is reflected in subsequent surveys.
2. Identify two actions to take on the focus issue.
After survey results are analyzed, review the responses to items related to the focus issue, and identify two actions that can be taken—and who is responsible for implementing those actions. In some organizations, it’s common for managers to call a meeting after receiving survey results and gather around a whiteboard to figure out what actions to take. The problem with this approach is that it puts everything on the manager, who probably lacks the skills of an organizational development consultant.
This can be avoided by identifying actionable items within manager control, and making pre-recommendations for action steps from a range of suggestions that are known best practices regarding, for example, resources, support or teamwork. Providing recommendations and backing them up with tips, strategies, and best practices simplifies the process and can help in overcoming manager resistance, by illuminating the idea that “Here are some things I can do as a manager.”
Action planning becomes easier when survey design identifies the level at which items are actionable, providing clarity to help both leadership and management think about the next step. Ultimately, the goal is not to force-feed the survey or the insights gained from it to management or employees. The goal is to design the right survey for the business to address the issues they want to understand, and ensure that the actionable insights are fit to purpose for the business—and that actions echo and link to the existing culture, training and development, change management, and other important elements. The added advantage of this approach is that it helps everyone in the organization connect in terms of purpose and mission.
Know Your People: HR’s Role In Taking Action On People Analytics
HR professionals have a crucial role in action planning: They serve as a bridge between employees, leaders, and managers. (Tweet this!)
Working with leaders, HR can develop an understanding about the issues they are facing—budgetary, workforce, or others—and use that perspective to aid in action planning. The survey will help to illuminate the issues in the business that are getting in the way of performance. Combined with HR’s knowledge of leaders’ perspectives, this insight about how to improve performance can draw managers in and help them see the survey process as something useful for them in achieving their own goals.
After the survey, HR can support leaders by facilitating debriefing to the organization, making sure everyone has a say and managers are open to feedback. HR will also consult on results, and ensure management takes ownership of the survey results and actionable items within manager control.
When this process is done well, HR becomes a more valuable consultant for the business—and gains a better position for working with leaders strategically.
3. Communicate people analytics-based action & progress at least three times.
Communicating progress on action items is just as important as taking action; employees often do not connect the dots between surveys and actions on their own. Perhaps even more important, repeated reference to the link between survey results and action reinforces the message that leadership is listening, and keeps conversation going inside the organization.
The obvious opportunities for communication are in presenting survey results and the issues for action, announcing action initiatives, and progress reports on actions. Each of these should be tied back to survey responses, and used as opportunities for gathering feedback.
Keep the business context in mind as well: Survey results should be considered in light of changes or ongoing initiatives in the business. If the organization is putting a career development initiative into place and the survey shows that a perceived lack of career development opportunities remains an issue for employees, communicate with a reminder of the status and any concrete details available about progress. The survey may help improve the focus of the initiative in development; it doesn’t necessarily indicate the need to create a new intervention.
To know the best action to take, you need to know your people first.
Actions to improve business performance work best when they take into account the people they will affect. The Perceptyx platform collects the data you need to understand your people and their perceptions. Paired with customized survey design and analysis, our platform delivers the insights you need to address your biggest business problems.
Contact Perceptyx today and see how we can help you start taking action.