Defining the Future of Work with People Analytics
By Ujjwal Sehgal
Future Of Work
The last few years have changed the way organizations function and interact with their employees.
The words of Andrew Bosworth, VP – Facebook Reality Labs, ring true when he says; “The future we envision for work allows for infinite virtual workspaces that will unlock social and economic opportunities for people regardless of barriers like physical location. It will take time to get there, and we continue to build toward this.”
What started as a remote work scenario has given way to a brand-new style of working. With the hybrid model gaining traction, the why, the what and the how of work has seen a massive shift. With the world returning to its pre-pandemic ways however, the return to office movement has started gathering steam and putting companies in a conundrum.
In a hybrid set-up, companies are still struggling with quite a few questions. What is the right mix of the number of days employees need to be at the office? How many days can they have the flexibility to work from a location which is more convenient for them? Some organizations have taken steps to ensure a 5-day office culture, while some have moved to remote work completely. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer in either approach. That being said, it’s imperative that employees have a say in this decision.
Primarily, the business world needs to understand that it is not being “available” but rather being “accessible” that is the most important. If employees are working from the office but are always in meetings and the chances of meeting and collaborating with others are few and far in between, working remotely can be just as effective.
The second important thing to keep in mind is that a blanket mandate might not be the right approach to things. People are social animals. They require a certain level of interaction to learn, collaborate, and grow. This might not always be possible in a completely remote environment. On the other hand, some would argue that the time people spend commuting to work could be used more effectively.
Both points of view have merit. The choice really rests on what is right and relevant for that employee, and whether organizations bring in the right tools, environment, and ecosystem to bring a unified experience for on-site and remote employees.
This is where data and analytics can play a crucial role in helping leaders build and define the right strategy for the model that would work best in their respective organizations.
Data from people analytics can be leveraged in:
As I mentioned earlier, a one-size-fits-all strategy would not be ideal for any organization. By leveraging analytics and the power of data, we can build cohorts to identify which strategy works for each cohort.
For example, a cohort could be created purely on the job description of employees to identify which group should be in the office or a hybrid setup and which group can be completely remote. Creating and leading with a data-backed strategy is an opportunity organizations must tap into.
Employee Health & Wellbeing
With a completely remote environment over almost two years, the workday of an employee has also stretched. As the globe shrinks from a work perspective, a lot of people around the world are in global roles where they are not just interacting with the people within their base office.
While this work approach has its bright side, it has also led to longer workdays. This can cause fatigue and burnout over time. With the availability of tools like Microsoft Viva, the People Analytics team can analyze these behaviors and build predictive indicators to identify burnout.
Subsequently, they can provide these early signals to line managers to bring in the right mitigation and intervention strategies. Further analysis can help understand where employees spend the most time and with whom to help map out an understanding of their network both within and outside the organization.
While a lot can be said and done for the average office worker, let’s not forget that there are employees who are not in the office but could be on the manufacturing floor, in supply, sales, field, etc. and they too have been affected. One of the biggest areas which many companies ignore from an analytics standpoint is workforce planning and how that can help companies optimize their workforce. This can be done by identifying skills, planning, organization design, and development, to name a few.
The above are areas and expectations where organizations can lead in the design and implementation of their work strategies. However, the reality is that employee expectations are also changing.
For example, with the changing ecosystem and new tools and technologies, the roles of employees are also evolving. Today, companies are always trying to play catch-up to the roles of the future. Many a time, they have limited to no visibility for the newer roles they need to bring within the organization. This is where analytics can play a crucial role in helping organizations scan the horizon in the immediate, medium, and long term. This can help them determine which roles fit into their ecosystem.
Another point of concern and struggle for organizations is the skill and capability development of their employees. Analytics can help navigate this challenge by helping identify the relevant roles for employees that can potentially be their next best move. Data and analytics can play an integral role in building job recommender models and embedding those into your workforce planning tool to help design future roles.
For organizations looking to design the right work strategy, one of the most important things is perseverance. Organizations need to be resilient and flexible while they undergo pilot and scenario testing to ascertain which strategy works for them and their employees. Additionally, they must keep in mind that in an environment such as this one, a workplace evolves continuously. The strategy must evolve as well. To make organizations dynamic, a culture of continuous rigor and follow-through is important. This is a journey that both the companies and their employees need to take together to create the right work environment for themselves.
With newer tools and technologies being introduced in the world coupled with the ability to capture various touch points of data, the ability for organizations to perform predictive analytics has increased to a great extent. However, just having access to these tools and data elements does not mean that companies can do great predictive modeling and work. Business users need to understand that data can only provide value when they are clear about the problem they are looking to solve.
The journey for businesses to see success in their analytics journey is a function of–identification of the right problem, the right business context, and bringing in the relevant and right skilled people who would work on the right tools and platforms with the relevant data.