Over the course of the past few years, you’ve probably heard the odd person mention how something called big data is changing the way we do everything, from choosing which series get made, to figuring out who’s likely to win an election. But what impact has big data had on employee engagement?
As with most fields, a deep look into big data in the employee engagement space shows that the impact has been huge, but only when people and companies have figured out how to use it effectively.
And in order for that to happen, companies need to know what kind of data to gather, when to gather it, and how to interpret intelligently.
What makes ‘big’ data different
In order to figure those variables out, it’s worth reminding ourselves what separates big data from ordinary data.
According to Wikipedia, the following characteristics differentiate big data:
- Volume: The quantity of generated and stored data. The size of the data determines the value and potential insight- and whether it can actually be considered big data or not.
- Variety: The type and nature of the data. This helps people who analyse it to effectively use the resulting insight.
- Velocity: In this context, the speed at which the data is generated and processed to meet the demands and challenges that lie in the path of growth and development.
- Variability: Inconsistency of the data set can hamper processes to handle and manage it.
- Veracity: The quality of captured data can vary greatly, affecting accurate analysis.
You are not, in other words, harnessing the power of big data by sending out an employee happiness survey a couple of times a year. It can form part of a data set, sure, but that makes it a small part of a much larger whole.
So what does effective use of big data look like when it comes to employee engagement? While there’s no definitive answer, we’ve put together a few examples that should give you a much clearer idea.
One of the most important uses of big data in employee engagement has come in the talent management space. When it comes to hiring for instance, companies which have a solid understanding of the typical salaries, benefits, as well as who’s hiring and in what positions, have a distinct advantage over those which don’t.
The same is true for when it comes to retaining existing staff. Knowing what the external hiring market — with all its variables — is like, can go a long way when it comes to ensuring that you don’t lose your best staff.
As important as it might be to know what the external market is doing, it’s vital for companies to know what’s going on among its own employees.
It’s been found for instance that staff at companies with well-developed employee engagement strategies take fewer sick days.
Again though, time off for illness is just one metric that companies can look at when it comes to gauging the general happiness of its employees. While there are no hard and fast rules for which metrics a company should pay attention to, there are a few which are generally useful. These include:
- Retention Rate
- Voluntary Attrition Rate
- Happiness Index
- Tenure (years)
Keeping a constant eye on these metrics and aligning them with the company’s business goals can go a long way when it comes to increasing employee engagement and productivity.
On a practical level meanwhile, a service like Flabuless can help companies figure out which of their employee wellness initiatives are getting the most engagement.
The ability to use big data in any setting is intrinsically tied to the availability of technology. A number of companies have realised this and come up with ways for employees to use the technology they have at hand to provide instant data to their employers.
One example of this is HighGround, a company which creates systems that mine data directly from employees.
One of its products is a smartphone app which allows employees to self-report on the fly. That means that companies get constant streams of data rather than relying on one or two surveys a year.
Redesigning the office
We all know that a well-designed office can have a dramatic effect on employee happiness, but how do you go about getting it right?
One way is to use heat mapping and the wide array of internet-enabled sensors currently on the market to figure out what is and isn’t working.
The data that come from using these kinds of sensors can help companies figure out everything from where people congregate to what lighting enables the most productive and happiest employees.
A cautionary note
There are, of course, things that big data can’t do. While it’s incredibly effective at identifying trends and patterns, it simply cannot replace face-to-face conversations and real individual and team-centric employee engagement.