We’re probably in the biggest work change context we’ve ever been in. Technology advances, globalisation, the political climate, and changes in the social demographics of the workplace are all factors currently impacting on organisations in every sector.

In this environment, people science is emerging as a new focus. But it goes beyond HR. Organisations are starting to apply data science to help make decisions across their entire business.

In a recent roundtable breakfast meeting co-hosted by BIE and Sage People, we discussed this subject in depth. In this blog post, we put forward some of the most interesting insights from the discussion.

A single truth

Now more than ever, we need access to the right facts and figures so we can make credible and impactful decisions for our businesses. And this idea of having a ‘single truth’ was one of the biggest messages that came out of the discussion.

For years, organisations have run from a multitude of different systems, where bringing all data together to inform decisions has been almost impossible. But using people science and analytics you can bring all departments together on the same page to understand what’s currently happening in your organisation.

Yet the challenge is that there is often a high degree of conflicting views on what key facts are telling us. People interpret data differently, depending on their own backgrounds and views of the world. And the majority of HR people don’t come from a data or analytical background. It would be easy if there was a way to apply a simple analytical tool to determine what the stats mean and what to do with them. But that’s not the reality.

This is why data scientists, with the right skills to make sure you’re obtaining and driving the right kind of data, need to be brought into the fold. They look at the meaning behind the numbers. They give data credibility. And they qualify organisations to make informed decisions about the business, from how many employees they need, to how to harness the greatest potential from every one of them.

Managing the complexities of today’s workforce

Another big area of discussion centred around the changing social demographic profile of the workforce, and how this brings a complexity to the workplace. In this context, it’s essential that organisations understand the reality of what’s happening on the ground. And this is where people science can provide significant value.

With a multigenerational workplace, organisations need ways of doing things that suit the millennials, the baby boomers and everyone in between. Research shows that companies with engaged employees outperform their peers by up to 202% percent. So it’s time to start paying attention to the needs, desires and attitudes of the broad spectrum of people that sit within your organisation.

Millennials are set to make up 75% of the workplace by 2025. And it’s in an organisation’s best interests to understand this rapidly growing cohort better. Even from the practical nature of how they want to work, millennials represent a very different persona to their older peers. They don’t necessarily want to commute, to sit in an office, or to be forced to use a particular technology. So do you need more flexible working solutions? Or a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy?

With people science and analytics we can gain a deeper understanding of people. This allows us to make better decisions about how to attract them to our organisations. For example, are millennials using LinkedIn or is there a better way to reach them? It also gives us a strong steer on how best to motivate and develop them so we can retain them within our business. 

Teri Ellison from Sage People adds, "People are our most valuable asset, so they need to be at the heart of every decision the business makes. The challenge is that, most leaders in the C-suite are making decisions that affect people from a different generation (in some cases multiple generations), some of whom have very different motivations and desires to their own. Data science can help the leaders make decisions that are in tune with the reality of the business and enable them to really engage their teams."

HR needs to be a function that isn’t just about understanding and managing personalities. It should be about working with data to make decisions about what we need to do, change or promote to get the best from our people.

Despite the opportunities being presented by AI and the IoT, there will always be people in our organisations. To get the most from them, we need to understand them better. And to do that, we need to build HR functions that focus on both engagement and data technology. This is where people science comes in. It’s not just about sending out a survey, it’s about having a single credible data source to drive commercial decisions. Which, against a backdrop of constant disruption, is today more important than ever.


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