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How Companies Can Apply Big Data to Engage Employees Data solutions that track employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention are key to the future of building and sustaining a happy and motivated workforce.

By Daniel Newman Edited by Dan Bova

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Growing over the last several years, employee engagement is a big topic for businesses. Study after study shows the problems of a disengaged workforce including dwindling employee morale and the hefty price businesses pay for productivity losses from such issues.

Unfortunately, employee-engagement issues have not plateaued. Indeed, less than one-third of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs in 2014, which is the "highest reading since 2000," according to research firm Gallup.

Related: Without Good Analysis, Big Data Is Just a Big Trash Dump

It's pretty clear: No matter how much we talk about employee engagement, we're still stuck in a rut. It's time to re-think employee engagement. What better way to do it than bring big data into the equation?

Big data has already demonstrated its importance in solving a host of business problems -- from increased customer intelligence and lead generations to helping form and drive better business strategies, big data has a widespread impact on modern business.

How can big data help?

In terms of customer experience, big data equips businesses with a vast amount of customer information. Using records of customer interactions, buying histories, social media, online communities and surveys, businesses can predict future actions faster and with greater accuracy than ever before.

Many businesses, however, forget that our number one customer is our workforce. Therefore, it's our responsibility to create an environment that helps our employees flourish. Just like we strive to build healthy, happy and long-term relationships with our customers, we need to empower and build trust with our employees. However, it isn't something that develops organically. Trust can only be built over time. But it is worth the effort to begin thinking about your employee engagement efforts, since engaged, valued employees will bend over backwards to remain loyal.

When you have the right tools and analytics in place, you can measure everything right including individual performance, team spirit, interactions between departments and the overall company culture.

Data-driven strategies to engage the workforce

In the pre-big data days, businesses had a tendency to sideline problems with intangible solutions. Culture management was one such issue. How do employees behave? Do they reflect the company values in their actions? Is there a positive work culture? More than 80 percent of companies say they conduct employees satisfaction surveys, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, but "many admit that they don't understand how to interpret the results nor what to do to improve survey scores." How do we change this? A few ways would be to create teams that includes people familiar with the work being performed and hire and/or train staff with exceptional analytical skills. Don't be afraid to share your employee data with key partners and stakeholders -- people who aren't part of the process but who have a vested interest in the outcome and are willing to challenge the status quo.

Related: 3 Things That Successful Entrepreneurs Know About Data

Use data to know your employees better: Determining what inspires employees, what deters them, and what they don't care about allows employers to motivate their teams to greater performance levels. With the huge reserves of HR data at their disposal, businesses can go beyond their gut feelings, and make better decisions for their employees. They can gather the most relevant metrics on their workers, to understand, analyze and act. This ensures that their employee-engagement strategy is effective.

Apply the right metrics: Pick a few simple metrics that'll give you insights into areas of concern. Start with finding the answers for basic questions, like "do your employees feel proud to be a part of the organization?" "As an employer, do you give them enough incentives to stay motivated?" "Do you spend enough time to hear and resolve the grievances of your employees?"

Measure the right KPIs: Focus on the most important employee-based key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business. Applying big data analytics to monitor your employees' performance helps you appreciate the top performers. It also opens up a whole new way to identify and support your underperforming and unsatisfied employees before things get worse. Big data's predictive capabilities even let you know which employees are prone to accidents, health problems, or show early signs of dissatisfaction. This also stops negative employee behavior from growing. Data may be a lynchpin in understanding how to find and keep the best talent.

Data solutions that track employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention are key to the future of building and sustaining a happy and motivated workforce. The early adopters of data-drive employee engagement strategies are bound to find themselves ahead of their competitors.

Related: Why You Need to Embrace the Big Data Trend in HR

Daniel Newman

President of Broadsuite

Dan Newman is the president of Broadsuite where he works side by side with brands big and small to help them be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. He is also the author of two books, is a business professor and a huge fan of watching his daughters play soccer. 

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