What is Workforce Analytics?
Workforce analytics is the practice of collecting data about your workforce and turning the insights into action items to support the organization and employees. Workforce analytics and planning gathers information from remote, in-office and hybrid teams to spot trends and track progress against benchmarks.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could see what your teams really need to thrive in the workplace? And not just with surveys and best guesses, but objective data? With workforce analytics, you can.
In this guide to workforce analytics, we’ll cover the following:
- Why is workforce analytics important?
- Benefits of workforce analytics
- Examples of workforce analytics in action
- Types of workforce analytics
- Who uses workforce analytics?
- The history of workforce analytics and HR analytics
- How to implement a workforce analytics program
- What to look for in a workforce analytics platform
- Getting started with workforce analytics
Why is workforce analytics important?
Workforce analytics show business leaders where, when and how people do their best work. It’s powered by software that automatically collects employee data and turns it into insights. Organizations then use those insights to make data-driven decisions related to employee experience, operational processes, technology and more.
Workforce analytics tools allow you to see what’s happening within your workforce — how employees spend their time, who’s at risk for burnout and other performance insights. Managers can use this information to predict business outcomes and implement changes to help employees thrive. Workforce analytics can be used at different scales, allowing businesses to track trends at the individual, team, department or organizational level. And the company can use these insights to remove bottlenecks or save costs by retiring unused technology.
Benefits of workforce analytics
Workforce analytics provides benefits for employees, HR departments and executives alike. If you’re on the fence, here are a few of the top benefits of workforce analytics for your organization:
1. Increased employee productivity
You might assume workforce analytics is primarily for managers. However, givingemployees access to their personal productivity data is often just as valuable.
Workforce analytics helps employees prevent burnout, pursue career advancement and — most importantly — do their best work.
2. Better coaching from managers
Workforce analytics is good for managers who want to build efficient teams, improve engagement and provide effective coaching. By understanding exactly how teams work, managers can elevate top performers and get clear insights on best practices to share with others.
3. A stronger culture
HR professionals can use workforce analytics to retain top talent, empower team leaders and improve the employee experience. Using workforce analytics can also help HR managers build a strong culture of trust and transparency where individual employee contributions are acknowledged and rewarded.
4. More effective leadership
Workforce analytics give executives critical insights into organizational health and alignment. This allows leadership to take an “employee first” approach to company culture by celebrating trust and transparency from the top down.
5. Better use of IT resources
IT professionals can use workforce analytics to see what, how and when technology is used. These insights help optimize tech stacks and eliminate waste. Most organizations have SaaS applications that are rarely used. With workforce analytics, you can cancel those subscription costs with confidence.
Examples of workforce analytics in action
Workforce analytics is powerful on its own. But when you combine employee activity with data from work hubs like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Salesforce, Zendesk, Monday.com and Jira — the benefits are even bigger. You can see which work patterns achieve the best outcomes and help employees achieve more in less time. Examples of outcomes from using workforce analytics include:
Improved use of space
Understanding what people need to do their best work is key. And these days, location plays a significant role. Which employees and teams need more in-person collaboration? How frequently do they come into the office? What does productivity look like among remote and hybrid employees? These insights help leaders develop workplace policies that support work-life balance, well-being and business needs.
Better time management
Workforce analytics show when meetings take place, so you can understand how effective they are. Are you constantly multitasking during meetings? That might be an indicator your participation isn’t required. Are others disengaged? If you organized the meeting, this may be a clue that you need to tighten your agenda or engage more people in the conversation. You can see and act on these insights within seconds to help combat the hidden costs of ineffective meetings.
Burnout is a big challenge for organizations across industries. But it can also be challenging to identify. Are your employees actively seeking other jobs? Are they less engaged with projects and teams? Do they face significant health issues as a result of overworking? Workforce analytics helps alert you to signs of burnout, such as low engagement and higher-than-usual workloads. Then use these insights to take action — and take care of your people.
Types of workforce analytics
There are several types of workforce analytics, which can allow you to improve performance in several areas of the business.
Using workforce analytics to improve employee engagement empowers managers to assess burnout risk, protect focus time and ensure a healthy workload balance. These objective insights help balance the subjectivity of engagement surveys and sentiment analysis.
Managing productivity across teams can be a big challenge, especially when different leaders have varying definitions of what it means to be productive. Workforce analytics software provides productivity indicators to tell you what’s typical, who’s producing and where improvements are needed.
Using workforce analytics to monitor employee digital activity is a great way to understand what people need to do their best work. It makes it easy to spot patterns and pain points — like long hours or lengthy meetings — that teams face on a daily basis.
Operational efficiency and compliance
Workforce analytics can uncover operational inefficiencies and compliance issues across an organization. With views to show workload balance, resource usage, time management and internal policy compliance, the efficiency gains can be limitless.
Technology adoption is a struggle for all organizations. By using workforce analytics to manage technology, see which teams use which apps and then use those insights to invest in the right software and training.
Who uses workforce analytics?
Workforce analytics provides visibility across your entire organization. It offers benefits to employees as well as team leaders and executives.
Employees use workforce analytics to self-manage and self-motivate while also reducing their risk for burnout. We’ve all heard about Zoom fatigue, Slack interruptions and unproductive meetings. Workforce analytics can help employees fine-tune daily habits to minimize distractions and improve focus time, ultimately ensuring a better work-life balance.
Managers can use dashboards and reports to check the real-time pulse of teams. Is anyone’s workload too heavy? Do people need more resources or training? Are work activities aligned with roles and responsibilities? Workforce analytics give managers the visibility and insights to be more effective coaches and support a culture of continuous improvement.
Leaders want to understand the health of their organization. With workforce analytics, executives can see patterns and trends, and use that information to make strategic workforce and business planning decisions. For instance, you can see which offices are sitting empty and which SaaS apps aren’t being used — and use that intel to reduce real estate costs or optimize your IT budget.
The history of workforce analytics and HR analytics
The practice of workforce analytics stems from a history in HR analytics (often referred to as “people analytics”). To understand how today’s workforce analytics can elevate business decision-making, it helps to look back on the history of HR monitoring.
A brief history of HR analytics
There are three kinds of HR analytics: descriptive, predictive and prescriptive.
- Descriptive HR analytics is an aggregated view of the raw data you collect on the people that work for you. It encompasses information such as where people work, the average number of hours worked and the percentage of time spent in certain applications. Descriptive HR analytics can help you understand why things happened in the past.
- Predictive HR analytics builds on descriptive analytics by creating models to predict future outcomes. While descriptive analytics reveals employee behaviors that preceded a resignation, predictive analytics uses that information to create an employee burnout model. You can then use that model to predict which employees are at risk.
- Prescriptive HR analytics goes one step further to offer recommendations on what to do. In the employee burnout example, prescriptive HR analytics helps you understand healthy patterns displayed by engaged employees and determine where to intervene to prevent turnover with individualized coaching.
The evolution to workforce analytics
Human resources professionals use HR analytics software in many ways, most often to guide personnel decisions related to recruitment, retention and training. This focus puts their analysis squarely in micro spaces like talent management and employee performance.
Now that workforce analytics is available, HR analytics is quickly evolving from a narrow people data focus to provide a wider workforce view. It allows business leaders to identify newer, better ways to streamline workflows, boost productivity, improve the employee experience and more.
How to implement a workforce analytics program
For your workforce analytics program to be successful, adoption is key. You want employees to understand and support your long-term goals — not resist or distrust you. With a thoughtful approach to roll-out, you’ll be able to grow trust and transparency while working toward shared goals.
How do you introduce workforce analytics in a way that secures employee trust? There are three main elements to consider:
1. Be transparent
Be up front with your employees. Share your goals and tell them how using workforce analytics will help you achieve them. And be specific about what you are NOT going to do with the technology. Employees need to know you take their privacy seriously and want to see how your software protects it. Trust and transparency are essential to build a healthy workplace culture, and your workforce productivity solution should align with those goals.
2. Communicate details across all levels
Communication about your workforce analytics plan should start early and happen often. Starting with business leaders, let people know exactly how you plan to achieve your goals and share future plans for how workforce analytics will be used. Next, bring managers into the fold. They’re likely to be the power users of your program and will field questions from others along the way. Then, after all leaders have been brought onboard, invite employees to join the conversation. Be clear about your goals and give people plenty of opportunities to ask questions. Interactive forums and town-hall meetings are both great ways to demonstrate transparency and openly address concerns. Once rollout is complete, maintain continuous communication to create a positive feedback loop and develop a culture of trust.
3. Encourage collaboration
Don’t just view the data — share it! Workforce productivity analytics data is meant to be shared across the organization so individuals and managers can collaborate on goals. By encouraging employees and teams to analyze their own data, you set the stage for success — and avoid the pitfalls of misinterpretation. What defines a successful, productive salesperson is much different than what defines a successful, productive engineer. Avoid this mistake by inviting employees, managers and business decision makers to the table when creating baselines and benchmarks.
What to look for in a workforce analytics platform
Many workforce analytics applications are designed to solve single problems, such as how many hours someone works or what software they use the most. A workforce analytics platform, on the other hand, is designed to shed light on the bigger picture. It can help people in multiple roles work toward multiple goals, from increasing productivity to improving employee well-being. It also lets you connect multiple sources of data to generate more insights and better support teams.
The best workforce analytics platforms also prioritize trust and privacy. Information that’s relevant to specific employees should be exposed only to the individual employees themselves. Aggregated, anonymized data can then be given to managers and executives to make business decisions.
The ActivTrak difference
We’ve purposefully developed a powerful platform that focuses on the collection of contextual data, avoiding invasive employee monitoring technologies like continuous screenshots and keystroke logging. However, many workforce analytics solutions still allow those invasive capabilities. If you choose to use a different workforce analytics platform, it’s important to regularly ask if the software is serving your goals. If you can’t answer with a “yes,” it may be time to rethink things.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse points out that your employer can monitor most of your workplace activity unless there’s a policy or agreement (such as an employee handbook, company memo or union contract) stating otherwise. However, rules vary from state to state. And if you perform work across international borders, you’ll need to be mindful of the laws and regulations that apply. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) states that anyone in the EU must consent to personal data collection.
At ActivTrak, we take this one step further. We designed ActivTrak with the founding principles of transparency, collaboration and informed insight.
Getting started with workforce analytics
The best way to get started with workforce analytics? Set up your platform to get a baseline. With ActivTrak, it’s easy. Our powerful workforce analytics platform helps organizations set goals and benchmarks, track progress against results, and optimize outcomes for success – so employers and employees can work better together to realize their full potential.
Request a demo to see how to start using the platform today.