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A Beginner’s Guide:
What is Workforce Analytics?

Team learning about workforce analytics and employee monitoring
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What is Workforce Analytics?

Workforce analytics, derived from a history of HR analytics,  is the collection and analysis of data points that create context for how work gets done. Business leaders then take those contextual data points and make strategic business decisions concerning personnel, operational processes, technology and more to improve  business outcomes.

Workforce analytics can be done by a hand collection of data and lengthy analysis. This method is not preferred as it is ripe for human error and difficult to correlate multiple dependent data points. However, there are now workforce analytics software platforms that can automatically collect relevant user data, provide analysis and insights, and allow business leaders the ability to accurately predict potential results. 

In this beginners guide to workforce analytics, we’ll cover the following topics:


Top Benefits of Workforce Analytics

Workforce analytics can help you understand how your employees do their work best, can help employees understand how they spend their time, and can help business leaders track the health of their organization. Using workforce analytics, gains can be made up and down the chain of work in an organization.

For Employees

You might think that workforce analytics is primarily for managers. However, studies show that giving individual contributors or employees access to their personal productivity data is often equally as valuable. With workforce analytics, employees can understand how they work, validate their performance reviews, and collaborate on individual performance goals based on their personal data. 

For Managers

Workforce analytics is valuable for managers who want to build efficient teams, engage employees no matter where they are located, and coach team members effectively. By understanding exactly how your teams work, managers can elevate top performers and get clear insights as to the best practices for others to emulate.

For HR

Human resources professionals can use workforce analytics to retain top talent, empower team leaders, and increase employee productivity while avoiding burnout.  Additionally, using workforce analytics can build a strong culture of trust and transparency where individual employee contributions are acknowledged and rewarded.

For Leadership

With workforce analytics, executive leadership can gain critical insights into organizational health and alignment. Executives can also lead company culture with an ‘employees first’ approach and celebrate trust and transparency from the top down.

For IT

Data shows that on average, enterprises have almost 300 different SaaS applications across their organization. While asset management can track versions, licenses, and updates, how can you tell what technology is working for your teams and what tech detracts? IT professionals can use workforce analytics to visualize technology adoption, application sprawl, and redundancy. 


Types of Workforce Analytics

Workforce analytics delivers insights on a number of different areas, giving users the ability to focus on one or more goals in their organization. 

Employee Engagement

Using workforce analytics to improve employee engagement allows managers to identify employees who are exhibiting burnout or disengaging by looking at focus and/or productivity markers. This visibility allows for individualized coaching, training opportunities, or precise attention to avoid turnover while strengthening engagement across an organization.

Productivity Management

‘Productivity’ likely means different things to different leaders across a complex business landscape. Measuring and managing those different definitions can be complicated. Workforce analytics software serving productivity management should allow for multiple interpretations, allowing businesses to optimize productivity potential through people, processes, and technology simultaneously.

Remote Workforce Management

Understanding how remote teams do their jobs is particularly difficult since visibility is a barrier. With workforce analytics, remote teams can experience improved asynchronous workflows, uncover compliance gaps from offsite access, and discover productivity insights of distributed teams.  

Employee Monitoring

True employee monitoring software looks at the minutiae of what employees do. Workforce analytics evolves employee monitoring to focus on productivity results. Managers and leaders can then understand how and when work gets done to encourage a culture of continuous improvement.

Operational Efficiency & Compliance

Workforce analytics can uncover operational inefficiencies and compliance issues across an organization. With views to show you workload balance, resource usage, time management, and internal policy compliance, the efficiency gains can be limitless with workforce analysis.

Technology Management

Understanding how technology adoption, misalignment, and proliferation across an organization impacts productivity goals is a challenge for all organizations. Using workforce analytics for technology management to uncover these trends allows managers to see which applications are helping and which are harming.


Why is Workforce Analytics Important?

With automated workforce analytics, you can seamlessly gather data and insights from user activity. This information will shine a new light on current practices, letting you see room for increased efficiency. You’ll then be able to predict future outcomes more accurately, allowing you to steer the course of your company instead of only being able to take corrective action after the fact. 

Employing a workforce analytics platform will allow you to see a multitude of productivity insights that go beyond the simple question of ‘who is doing what?’ by exposing how they are doing their jobs, what they are using, who they are collaborating with, and more. With workforce analytics, users can track productivity trends across individuals and groups, assess engagement for both in-office and remote teams, identify bottlenecks, design effective coaching based on individualized patterns, and identify where technology overlaps or fails to be adopted.


The History of Workforce Analytics

The practice of workforce analytics comes from the history of HR analytics. It’s important to understand what HR monitoring is and how it has been used in order to understand the place of workforce analytics in today’s business landscape and where workforce analytics can elevate business decision making. 

HR Analytics
There are three kinds of HR analytics: descriptive, predictive and prescriptive. Each type has its place in the scope of HR analytics. We will discuss each and understand how they can work together to give you a more precise snapshot of the HR stats in your company.

Descriptive HR analytics is an aggregated view of the raw data you collect on the people that work for you. For example: how many people are in each office or remote, average number of hours worked, or percentage of time spent in certain applications during work hours. Descriptive HR analytics can help you understand why things happened in the past. For that reason, descriptive analytics continues to be a reactive approach.

Predictive HR analytics builds on descriptive analytics by taking those patterns discovered in the past and creating models to predict outcomes for the future. For example, you could see employee behaviors that led to an employee separating from the company with descriptive analytics. If you took that data and created an employee burnout model, you could predict which employees are heading towards burnout. 

Prescriptive HR analytics takes that analytics one step further and offers recommendations on what to do. Sticking with our employee burnout example, prescriptive HR analytics could help you understand overall healthy patterns displayed by healthily engaged employees and help you 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. Primarily, they collect and use data on their personnel regarding recruitment, retention, employee performance and training. This focus puts their analysis squarely in micro spaces like Talent Management and Employee Performance. 

HR analytics is quickly evolving from this narrow people data focus to a wider workforce view now that workforce analytics is able to enrich the ‘who’ and ‘what’ questions with more ‘how’ context. Business leaders want to understand how to improve performance as well, but through a different, wider view. These leaders are often looking for ways to streamline and improve workflows and processes while also caring about employee engagement and productivity.  

With HR analytics software in place, business leaders often look to those platforms to answer those related productivity and efficiency questions. But without the necessary productivity insights, HR analytics software will come up short. Workforce analytics has evolved from this need. Workforce analytics dives deeper to provide insights into how teams interact, how employee focus impacts productivity, how time is spent, how technology is used, all helping to answer the bigger question “How can productivity be optimized”. With these insights, business leaders, teams, and individuals can collaborate on ways to improve productivity across an organization.


How to Implement a Workforce Analytics Program

Implementation is key to gaining and keeping support for a workforce analytics program. Don’t do enough to bring people on board and you could end up with employees who don’t understand your goal and resist the data or your goals or you impact the culture negatively resulting in distrust. With a thoughtful approach to roll-out, you’ll be able to grow trust and transparency while aligning employees to the goals of your program.

Rollout & Buy-In

How do you introduce it to your organization in a way that ensures you have employees’ trust and endorsement? There are three main things to consider to gain the support you need: transparency, communication, and collaboration. Taking care to ensure all three areas are covered will create a culture of continuous learning and performance improvement. 

Transparency: Be upfront with your employees. Share with them your goals and exactly how using workforce analytics software will help you achieve those goals. Also sharing what you are NOT going to do with the technology is important. Employees need to know you are sensitive to their privacy and your plans have taken their privacy into consideration. Additionally, being transparent with how the software protects their privacy will build trust. Trust and transparency are essential to building a healthy workplace culture, and your workforce productivity solution should align with those goals.

Communication: Communication about your workforce analytics program plan should start early and should happen often. Start with business leaders, letting them know your goals and exactly how you plan to achieve them as well as potential future plans for how the analytics could be used by others. Next, bring managers into the fold. They are likely to be the power users of your program and will be fielding questions from others along the way. After all of the leaders have been brought onboard to the plan, invite the users into the conversation. Going back to transparency here, being clear about the goals of your program and giving employees an opportunity to ask questions is essential. Often, this looks like two-way communication such as an interactive forum or town-hall meeting where you demonstrate your transparency by addressing their concerns openly. Once rolled out, continuous communication creates a positive feedback loop and develops a culture of trust.

Collaboration: Workforce productivity analytics data is meant to be shared organization-wide, so that individuals and managers alike can collaborate on goals and solutions. Not only does this promote trust, but by analyzing their own data, employees are empowered to own their own development and use their data for self-improvement. Collaboration helps avoid the pitfalls of misinterpreting performance data as well. 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. 

ActivTrak’s Principles for Transparency 

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 platforms still allow those invasive capabilities. If you choose to use a workforce analytics platform with invasive capabilities, It’s important to regularly remind oneself of your primary goals for workforce analytics. If you find yourself unable to answer the question, ‘does this action serve my goals?’ with ‘yes’ then perhaps you should rethink the actions you are considering. 

While the practice of workforce analytics developed out of HR analytics, the software used to aggregate the necessary data is derived from. employee monitoring techniques. The history of employee monitoring is associated with harsh supervision and heavy oversight. While workforce analytics focuses on the derivatives of that monitoring and strives to provide insights and productivity gains, it’s important to remember the lessons learned from its origins in order to stay on an ethical path.  

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse points out that “your employer can monitor most of your workplace activity unless there’s a policy or agreement (employee handbook, company memo, union contract, etc.) stating otherwise.” However, rules vary from state to state; and if you perform work across international borders, you will 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.


ActivTrak and Workforce Analytics

ActivTrak is a powerful workforce analytics and productivity platform that helps teams understand how people work. Evolved from an ethically designed employee monitoring tool, ActivTrak focuses on promoting trust and transparency in order to achieve workforce productivity gains. ActivTrak delivers workforce analytics insights about how ‘employees can improve how they do their jobs, how they interact, and how teams can optimize their work. Learn more about ActivTrak.

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