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How to Lead With Empathy Powered by Data

Originally published in Entrepreneur

Take a look at three essential considerations for implementing a workforce analytics platform that will help you lead with more empathy and better data.

A recent study found that businesses can lose $600 billion a year to workplace distractions. Among the top reasons? Collaboration tools.

Slack, Zoom and email applications account for 21% of distractions, interrupting employees an average of 70 times per day, according to the ActivTrak 2022 State of the Workplace report. While collaboration tools have become indispensable for digital workers, too much collaboration time is proving to impede focus and productivity. And deep work is even harder to come by: only 3% of employees have focus sessions that last longer than 50 minutes, with 70% of employees averaging closer to 14 minutes.

These are just two metrics that help us understand the new challenges we face with the future of work. Others include technology usage, productive hours, focus, overutilization and burnout risk — valuable insights that allow organizations to improve employee experience and well-being.

And while well-being may be more difficult to quantify, it is critically important: the State of the Workplace report also revealed that 34% of employees continue to be overutilized at work, spending more than 75% of their time in this state compared to only 27% for their healthier peers. Any successful leader knows these figures aren’t sustainable.

As a chief product officer who has developed strategy, delivered, positioned and marketed SaaS platforms, apps and infrastructure, I’ve seen the value of this firsthand. Prior to joining ActivTrak, I braved a three-hour, round-trip Silicon Valley traffic commute and worked 12 to 14 hour days, coordinating product teams and engaging with customers and partners across multiple time zones. I experienced burnout firsthand, and while I was able to sustain this pace for more than 30 years, I was desperately seeking a better way.

I began using workforce analytics technology and immediately benefited from increased awareness of my digital activities. This allowed me to better manage my meetings, gain more focus, and more effectively use collaboration tools, resulting in a significant reduction in utilization, while also increasing my efficiency. In other words, I was working wiser, and doing more in less time.

I realized that not only was the data benefiting me as an individual, but my team would also collectively benefit through improved digital dexterity. Applying my experience in enterprise data management and building technology platforms, I saw the limitless potential of workforce analytics to collect, analyze and merge digital activity with other business intelligence data — providing greater insights for more informed decisions.

As we embrace the future of work, privacy, trust and transparency are non-negotiable. The technologies we use for individual and organizational benefit must also help us lead with more empathy, powered by better data. Here are three essential considerations for choosing and implementing a workforce analytics platform that does just that:

Don’t be afraid of data

Collect it, analyze it, share it and plan with it. Workforce data combined with other business metrics can help companies make new discoveries and close the loop, leading to improved efficiency and higher quality end-results for individuals and companies. Additional insight may come from a plethora of collaboration, work management, survey, benefits and training tools that generate data on employee experience, outcomes and sentiment.

The key is to look for a platform that has the ability to unify data by resolving the identities of individuals across siloed data sources. This is an essential capability to create a 360-degree view of employee digital activity. Once unified, the platform can deliver analytics with easy cohort segmentation to run impact analysis, visualize the current state and model the future state to address challenges and find opportunities proactively.

Center your strategy around trust and transparency

Take an employee-friendly approach when implementing workforce analytics. Focus on insights vs. oversights that help employees gain digital dexterity in their work, and feel heard, valued and empowered as integral to business success. Modern workforce analytics platforms provide a variety of ways for employees to become self-aware of their own digital dexterity and work habits. Many use the data as a part of their daily workflow, and get nudges and recommendations to take breaks and regain focus. Much like a “Fitbit” for their digital activities.

Look for multi-layered flexibility and security

Workforce analytics is a powerful tool for driving decisions that influence business culture and affect business outcomes. But not all platforms are created equal. Identify technologies that are built with flexibility, open application programming interfaces (APIs) and data science, while ensuring the highest levels of security and privacy. Enterprise-class platforms provide the means to gather fine-grained digital activity, while abstracting the information when needed to meet cultural, as well as global and regional privacy and transparency regulations.

There is tremendous power in data and analytics. As entrepreneurs navigate the future of work, leveraging workforce data with business intelligence and employee sentiment can help businesses thrive, build great culture and enhance employee well-being. I personally benefited from this. Now, in this new age of hybrid work, I’m a fully remote employee that is healthy, productive and happier than I’ve ever been in my career. You and your company can benefit as well.