Introduction: Why Are Workplace Analytics Important?
Organisations are increasingly looking for ways to use data to make evidence-based decisions. Making decisions on gut feeling can be dangerous since a personal opinion might not be the right one. Firstly, you are not always at the workplace. Secondly, you are in every room at the same time. And thirdly, you experience the workplace different than others. You need data to really understand what is going on, and how people use and perceive the workplace. Making evidence-based decisions is all about collecting valuable data and putting it into action in the workplace strategy. With actionable data sets, you can improve the work environment, and optimise the workplace strategy. But this is not a new trend. In fact, it has been around for decades.
A brief history of workplace analytics
The first time that companies started using analytics in the workplace was in the 1970s. They would use surveys, focus groups, and interviews to collect information about their employees’ needs and interests. This data would then be used to decide how to improve their workplace environment and increase productivity.
In the 1990s, organisations started using more sophisticated tools like databases to gather data on their employees’ performance, skill sets, and career paths. They also started using analytics software like Business Objects or SAS to analyse this data, so they could make better decisions about hiring or firing employees.
In the 2000s, companies started focusing on the “big data” coming out of these databases. They wanted to use analytics software like SAS and Watson to analyse this data and were able to make decisions about how they could improve their workplace environment for their employees.
COVID-19 has contributed to accelerating digital transformation in 2021. As a result of this rapid digitalisation, organisations are producing more and more data. The big question for many companies is, how do we turn that data into actionable insights? Workplace analytics does just that. It combines and analyses a continuous dataflow about the workplace from different sources, and turns it into actionable insights. This allows organisations to make evidence-based decisions and take action. Organisations can no longer make decisions based on gut feelings. Having data-generated insights available is a must-have for organisations to improve their workplace strategy sustainably.
What is workplace analytics?
Workplace analytics is the process of analysing the workplace and workforce through data. This analytics combines data sets that allow organisations to analyse the performance of both the workplace and workforce. Managers then can use these data points to understand aspects of the work environment such as the occupancy or the activities performed. Workplace use can be analysed through observation, giving for example insights into occupancy and utilisation. But the workforce can also be surveyed with questions like what workspaces they prefer to use. Or which activities they perform in certain workspaces. Using workplace analytics, businesses can identify collaboration patterns that impact productivity and optimise workforce effectiveness by analysing data from various cloud-based platforms. Like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams to mention a few. Together, this brings actionable insights into how employees are performing in the workplace.
You can categorise data into two types: soft and hard data. Soft data implies data collected through subjective experiences such as thoughts and feelings while hard data implies objective measurable data such as occupancy rate or room temperature. Our next blog will have an extensive explanation of these different data types. Let us first explain in what ways a company can collect data.
The idea behind workplace analytics is not just about measuring employee performance and the work environment. But it is also about improving the workplace through continuous feedback and coaching by HR and facility managers. For companies to optimise their workplace, data needs to be collected, analysed and converted into meaningful dashboards. The information derived from this snapshot can then be used to optimise the office space and strengthen the organisation. Workplace analytics can serve as a tool to analyse the effectiveness of workplace strategies. With this data, companies can create new ways to engage their employees and improve the work environment. Workplace analytics helps companies understand the keyfactors inside an organisation, employee engagement and how they can improve it.
Data Collection Methods for Workplace Analytics
The starting point for workplace analytics is of course raw data. There are numerous different ways to gather data about a workplace including utilisation surveys, observation studies, employee experience surveys or sensor technology:
- Surveys: to collect qualitative and quantitative data you can use surveys. You can administer a survey on a computer, mobile device, over the phone or in person. You can distribute the survey to all your employees, a small subset (and make implications), or target a specific group, depending on what you want to learn and the effort you want to ask from your employees.
- Focus Groups: A focus group is a meeting with a small group of people who share similar characteristics (like age, gender, etc.). The focus group facilitator leads the conversation and asks questions about topics related to your research goals.
- Interviews: An interview is a one-on-one conversation with someone who shares information about what they know.
- Experience sampling: A sample is a frequent but (super) short survey often focused on what’s happening now. For instance, samples give insights into what people experience during the day and what they are doing. You can get new and fresh insights by repeating the sampling procedure over a period of time. Especially during changing circumstances, it can be useful to use employee experience sampling. You can use an employee experience data tool to collect data samples.
- Observations: Observation involves seeing people at a specific time and place in a specific setting. Related to workplace analytics, this would translate into measuring the occupancy of a workplace or the number of employees entering an elevator.
- Sensors: sensors are small devices that collect data through smart methods and usually measure variables, e.g. movement or temperature. They send their collected data to a cloud server via gateways. The information is then transmitted to your computer or cell phone, so you have immediate access to all monitored activities.
Tips for Implementing Workplace Analytics
Implementing workplace analytics is a process that requires careful planning and consideration. The following steps guide you through the process to get started:
- Identify the workplace strategy and business drivers
- Determine the measurement variables
- Select the right measurement devices or service
- Collect data and ensure data security and privacy
- Filter, display and analyse the data using graphs on a dashboard
- Turn insights into actions
Workplace analytics is becoming increasingly popular as a way to understand and improve the workplace using data. A workplace analytics tool can help determine what needs to be improved and make retention and recruitment easier. Certain workplace analytics platforms merges insights from employee experience and workplace occupancy data. Together it is a tool for facility managers and human resources managers to take decisions over the work environment.
How you collect and analyse the data determines the success of workplace analytics. Missing data, or looking at the wrong variables can give skewed or wrong insights. Additionally, privacy and consent are important to consider during the data collection procedure. Not informing your employees very well about the intentions and procedures might lead to a sense of distrust. Being clear that you are collecting data to improve the workplace and employee wellbeing will avoid this.
Have you implemented workplace analytics yet? As you know, better data equates to better decision-making and workplace analytics will provide you with the data to see and understand patterns and trends.