HR urged to get better at people data

HR is missing out on a huge boost to productivity by not harvesting and analysing data correctly.

That's the conclusion from a panel at people professionals on the first day of CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition, which  looked at the link between wellbeing and productivity data tools.

Alejandro Sotomayor, lecturer in People Analytics, Management, and Leadership at Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey, said: “You can start understanding the different connections people make in the workplace to get work done.

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“You can help them connect with different people, plug an expertise hole, and therefore give better productivity in the workplace.”

Suzanne Marshall, clinical governance officer at wellbeing and performance company GoodShapeWorks, added that metadata trends are a valuable resource.

“You can find out a lot of things: you can find out who are the informal leaders in the organisation, you can find out how people are working, she said. 

“With these tools, you don’t need surveys, you can extract the data.”

More than half (54%) of employees who have had a second spell of absence due to mental health issues end up leaving their organisation.

Data empowers HR to spot these trends, Marshall said, and give employees the help they need in time.

Iyad Rahme, head of digital HR at Chalhoub Group UAE, said that it is important to measure wellbeing by how teams are working together, but that traditional methods soon grow stale.

“A lot of colleagues have noted employees suffering survey fatigue. Surveys have their place - but they’re very impersonal, and you don’t collect enough data to make a difference.”

Instead, a mixed approach of data gathering and conversation is more effective: “The human element is vital.”

The panel warned, however, that data security is vital - and that an open approach with employees is best.

Rahme said: “Do you want to monitor what people are doing when they are working from home? I honestly think no. 

“Letting employees know what we’re monitoring and why, but not watching every click - that becomes surveillance.”

Sotomayor added: “We need to be transparent with our people. If we use this data it’s because we want to help them.”

Dr. Wilson Wong, head of insight and futures at the CIPD, concluded that it is vital always to keep in mind the purpose of the task: employee wellbeing.

“Productivity in itself is not a goal: it is a byproduct of a healthy and engaged workforce.”