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Should Your Organization Adopt a Data-Driven Culture to Enhance People Management?

By Perceptyx - November 03, 2021

In today’s digital world, there is no shortage of data available to organizations that seek it out. However, not all of them know how to use that data to make decisions that will improve the employee experience. This is often because the culture is not set up with people analytics top of mind, especially when it comes to decision-making. 

Organizations with a data-driven culture analyze insights collected from employees (through surveys, focus groups, or other means of employee listening) before implementing new processes and procedures or making changes. For this type of culture to take place, an organization must truly know its people – what drives their behaviors, what motivates them, what hinders them, etc. – then use that information to guide its decision-making. (Click here to learn the 6 steps to the Data-Driven Decision-Making Process.)

The Benefits of a Data-Driven Culture

In a recent UNLEASH webinar titled “Turbocharging your HR Impact with a Data-Driven Culture,” Sue Lam, global head of people analytics, strategy and culture, at The Coca-Cola Company; Debby McIsaac, global head of employee engagement and social impact at HP; and Dr. Brett Wells, director of people analytics at Perceptyx, discussed the impact data has on their cultures, how it has improved their organization’s people management, and the role of people analytics within their overall business strategy. Here are some of the insights garnered from this distinguished panel of experts. 

People analytics and data drive the business strategy. Through gathering data from their people, both Coca-Cola and HP are better able to create and deliver on their business strategy. 

As Sue Lam stated, “We built a people strategy that enables us to deliver on our business strategy, and then we conduct advanced analyses to help us understand where there may be gaps in the strategy and also where there may be strengths. If changes need to be made, we typically partner with HR policy or the procedure owners to either make improvements or we might provide them with behavioral information to help us dial up the behaviors that will lead to greater success. For example, … we find that certain leadership behaviors might be related to better outcomes, and then we recommend that we develop those behaviors further, so this is what a data-driven culture looks like in Coca-Cola.” 

HP, while in a vastly different industry than Coca-Cola, has made similar investments in creating a data-driven culture to enhance its people management practices. 

“The very foundation of our 10-year plan is our culture,” said Debby McIsaac. “… Culture and talent working together to inform everything we’re doing as a business is a really key way that we’re looking to drive change.”

Data helps drive change and allows decisions to be made quickly. Because you have timely insights at your fingertips, there is no need to second-guess or question decisions. The data backs up the reasoning for the decision; therefore, your organization can move forward once a plan is set, increasing business agility. Statista, a consumer and market data provider, found that “62% of business leaders say that a fast decision-making process is the number one advantage of becoming data-driven.

HP not only appreciates the ability of data to support quick decision-making, but to ensure they are making the right decisions. 

“When (decisions) are informed by what we really know is happening, it lets us interrogate reality, and I think that is the important part where data can really play a role,” noted McIsaac. “… Data helps leaders stay grounded in reality and make the right moves at the right time. And take the right signals – I love to think that data is a signal and really helps leaders want to listen for the signal and then take action.”

Data helps solve problems. In data-driven cultures, the ability to gather new data creates the opportunity for continuous improvement, and for the data to be applied to address challenges as, or even before, they emerge. 

During the live session, Dr. Wells shared that he recommends starting to build your data-driven culture around the problems that the business is facing. This way, your organization knows what it needs to solve and then the data will show you the correct path toward resolving it.  

Make sure your organization has alignment between its values and its data. Companies need to measure what they want to reward and be sure that those things are also what the organization truly values.

Sue Lam points out that, “Most companies don’t realize they might not be rewarding the things they want to reward. … Define what you want to measure first, and then actually measure them whether through hard metrics or surveys. You may want to consider measuring employee beliefs as well as behaviors because the two might not necessarily be highly correlated. … There are a variety of factors that can influence a person’s behavior.” 

A true data-driven culture needs to start at the top. Executives need to buy-in, understand the importance of people analytics, and why it matters to both business strategy and achieving your desired outcomes. 

As Brett Wells states, “When I think about what separates good from great organizations, there are key differences in the culture, and first, it starts at the top. … (The great organizations) place employee voice at the center of all decision-making, and most importantly, they take action on that feedback and communicate the changes they made as a result of that feedback, so they close the loop.”

Data-driven cultures create transparency. When the data collected through surveys and other means of employee listening is shared with the organization as a whole, employees and stakeholders understand why decisions are being made and how their role and personal efforts contribute to the larger organizational strategy. They can see the “why” behind the decisions because that information is shared.

Debby McIsaac shared that reinforcing the data behind decisions helps create a data mindset throughout the company, resulting in richer conversations as departments and people come together because they all see the data and recognize its value. However, she also notes that to be truly transparent, organizations must prioritize communication because that’s what creates openness, trust, and buy-in from employees. 

Use People Analytics to See the Way Forward

Even if your organization has access to plenty of data, it may not have the people analytics expertise to create a truly data-driven culture. There is a learning curve in figuring out how to effectively introduce data into the decision-making process that requires a shift in the organizational mindset.

At Perceptyx, we believe that people analytics is a powerful decision-making accelerator that leads to increased agility and innovation, as well as a better employee experience. Our People Insights Platform, supported by our consultants, can help your company gain the insights you need to support effective people management, and address key talent challenges before they can affect larger KPIs like financial performance or customer satisfaction. 

View the full, “Turbocharging your HR Impact with a Data-Driven Culture,” hosted by UNLEASH, to discover how Coca-Cola and HP are successfully applying people analytics, and to learn more about how your own organization can create and sustain a culture of data-based decision-making. 

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