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Lack of Workforce Insight Is Killing Your Business Workforce analytics can cultivate a culture of continuous improvement.

By Ramon Chen Edited by Amanda Breen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There's no denying that the future of work is all about flexibility. As employees, we love being able to replace lengthy commutes with more focused time when working from home, and as business leaders, we also enjoy the increased satisfaction and cost savings associated with flexible work environments. But how can we put the right processes for remote and hybrid work arrangements in place to support our employees and have us all contribute toward our shared business objectives?

Enter workforce analytics. This technology provides much-needed empowerment of managers and employees by increasing visibility into how they use technology to achieve business outcomes. It allows organizations to unlock insight into their "digital dexterity," as Gartner calls it. In much the same way that we use smart devices to analyze and improve our physical and mental well-being, workforce analytics help us cultivate healthier digital work habits.

From increasing employee engagement and well-being to streamlining operations and identifying high-performance patterns across the entire company, here are three ways workforce analytics are fast becoming the must-have technology in the age of hybrid work.

1. Ensure employee well-being to optimize employee productivity

According to an extensive survey of more than 30,000 U.S. workers conducted by the University of Chicago and the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology, 40% of employees say they are more productive when working from home versus 15% who believe the opposite is true. There are many comparable studies that indicate an employee preference for remote work, but the vast majority rely on self-reporting for their statistical analysis.

The truth is that organizations need a trusted, objective view of productivity that is based on actual data rather than subjective employee and manager perception. Analytics may corroborate anecdotal evidence (e.g., the fully remote employee is indeed more productive than he or she was in the office) or it might indicate a need to plan a more efficient hybrid schedule based on data-driven discussions about how (and when) an individual does his or her best work.

Here are a few examples of productivity key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be measured by a workforce-analytics platform:

  • Productive hours per day: the average amount of time an employee spends on applications classified as "productive."
  • Focus session duration: the average amount of time an employee is able to work on something without shifting his or her attention to another task.
  • Days overutilized: the average number of days in which an employee is within his or her "overutilized" range. This is typically calculated at 30% above his or her optimal level of productive hours per day.

But most importantly, this data can help managers gain deeper insight into employee well-being so they can take action to prevent burnout and attrition. For example, a manager might offer coaching based on an employee's number of days overutilized and help him or her find solutions to restore a healthier workload balance. Perhaps the employee is engaging in many back-to-back video calls when there are opportunities to streamline communications and cut back on non-essential meetings.

Data is only valuable if it can be trusted and transparently used for the benefit of the individual first and foremost. Only then will it be embraced and cascade up in terms of resulting productivity and efficiency for the organization as a whole.

Related: 7 Traits of Supremely Productive Employees

2. Establish a foundation for high performance

Another fundamental application of workforce-productivity analytics is using the technology to identify digital habits and work patterns that are conducive to success for teams and individuals. When looking to replicate conditions that enable high performance, a manager can leverage the data to assess which applications are maximizing productivity versus causing distractions.

For example, maybe that "all-in-one" workstation software a colleague thinks is making him or her more efficient is actually causing him or her to engage in frequent context switching that disrupts valuable focus time. By benchmarking the circumstances that are favorable to peak productivity, managers can coach employees on how to better structure their workdays while applying lessons learned from top performers' habits and techniques.

Workforce analytics are also helpful for establishing a baseline that can be used to assess whether certain organizational changes have a positive or negative impact on productivity and performance. Organizations that are trying out new work models, such as going from fully remote to hybrid, can use their performance baseline to make a more informed decision about which option is best.

Related: Take Back Your Time with Context Scheduling

3. Increase operational efficiency

As a modern business leader, you're likely familiar with the continuous challenge of having to do more with less. What initiatives can be scaled back while doubling down on areas that are producing the biggest return?

Digitally-enabled organizations spend a lot of time and resources acquiring and implementing new workforce technologies only to see many used incorrectly, provide duplicate functionality or go unadopted altogether.

Workforce analytics can help simplify software usage by making it easier to separate the essential from the extraneous. For instance, an organization may simply have too many tools in its arsenal, and the lag time between applications could create a negative impact on operational efficiency.

Compliance is another complex digital ecosystem that can be demystified by using data strategically. Workforce analytics give business leaders a clearer picture of what types of behavior are routine versus abnormal so they can more effectively identify potentially noncompliant and risky activities.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Your Business More Efficient

The key to a happy, healthy, successful workforce

Apologies for what might have seemed like a dramatic headline. But if you are not using a workforce-analytics platform that gives you trusted data to help support employee well-being, pinpoint and scale high-performance habits and eliminate operational inefficiencies, your business is literally dying from lack of insight. We are all trying to adjust to this new way of working, and every employee has a shared responsibility to himself or herself and our teams to help us all not just survive, but also thrive. It's time to work wiser.

Ramon Chen

Chief Product Officer

As chief product officer, Ramon Chen oversees ActivTrak’s product strategy and works closely with the company’s marketing, sales and product teams to drive continued growth and market leadership.

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