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The 5 questions HR must ask to capture quality employee data

HR must ask five “W” questions when designing metrics.

abstract data stream
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Unleash Your Data Can technology analyze data to provide insights on how employees’ expectations may have changed over time? 

  • HR must ask five “W” questions when designing metrics.
  • How to capture quality and authentic data.
  • Everything you need to do to work collaboratively with employees.

We all love the promise of data. Globally, billions of dollars are being spent harnessing the vast amounts we all generate in the hope of uncovering insights which will unlock opportunities. It’s an uphill struggle – the amount of data we’re producing is accelerating every year, threatening to overwhelm any chance of finding the intelligence that’s truly valuable to organizations.

To overcome that hurdle, we’re deploying more and more technology solutions to process, analyze, and draw insights from the mass of information at our disposal. This isn’t new – business intelligence tools, for example, have been at the heart of enterprise operations for decades in one form or another.

Customer relationship management tools are an example of technology solutions that have been in business for many years. We have long known we need to know our customers better to predict their behaviors, anticipate their needs, and inform our business strategies accordingly. It’s only now, however, that HR is catching up, and businesses are starting to think about how they can capture and harness employee insight.   

[Read: Why HR Projects Fail]

Having engaged employees is critical – from higher productivity to lower staff turnover, having a committed workforce delivers immense benefits for businesses and their customers.

As such, it is unsurprising that more organizations are seeking to track employee engagement, experience, and expectations using people data. From pulse surveys to monthly one-to-ones, there are a host of ways employers can capture intelligence on how employees are feeling, how that is evolving and what’s influencing any mood change.

Capturing data is great. However, successfully collating information, and even analyzing it, is not the endgame. Without tangible outcomes, employees could well start to feel that these engagement activities are being used to tick a box rather than drive impactful change.  

using tech to analyse Employee data

To avoid that, organizations need to have complete clarity on what data they want to uncover.

There are five “W” questions to ask when designing metrics and each contributes to the validity of the measures:

  • First ask ‘why’ you are trying to measure this data.
  • Then ‘what’ specifically needs to be measured.
  • Then ‘who’ is being measured and by whom?
  • Then ask ‘when; the metrics are being collected.
  • Finally ask ‘where’ best to collect the data.

It is much more effective to collect data from employees in the natural flow of their work than asking them to stop their work to answer a survey or set of questions.

This is why the process matters as much as the technologies being deployed. The best metrics are collected with a clear purpose, using a deliberate methodology with the right people at the appropriate time and optimal location.

The quality of employee data

The process determines the quality and authenticity of the data.

To use technology to track changes in data over time, you need to ensure that the data being captured is consistent and that you are following the same process to capture it.

At the same time, technology needs to be simple to use and intuitive. The more user-friendly and in-the-flow-of-work the data capture process, the more employees will engage with the process, and therefore the better the resulting data.

Finally, employers need to ensure that the data is being refreshed regularly in order to see changes over time.

Capturing employee expectations

To capture employee expectations, one way to do this would be to periodically ask the workforce to select a certain number of elements that is most important to them at work at that point in time.

They could choose from a fixed list of items, such as better work life balance, more recognition for contributions, more responsibility, or greater flexibility.

This would provide the data employers need, which can then be tracked over time, and split by department, manager, team, and even the whole organization.

This information can then inform how expectations and engagement levels are evolving over time. When reviewed in line with other data, it could be used to determine the impact of certain events, whether it’s the introduction of a new benefit, a period of crisis management or simply gauging how employees feel at certain times of the year.

Progressive organizations understand that there is strategic value to be gained from gathering employee insight. To do that, however, they must not fall into the trap of thinking that having the technology to collect data on employee sentiment will be enough.

To not only mine valuable insights, but gather the right data, they need the right processes to be in place. True value, and through it the ability to positively impact employee expectations and engagement, comes from the proper integration of process and technology.  

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