The Quantified Organization: It’s Time For People Operations to Join the Data Revolution


By Goutham Kurra

The world is awash with data. From optimizing supply chains to understanding customer sentiment to tracking the spread of contagious disease and predicting churn: data, algorithms and the information they yield have given us incredible leverage in business and in life.

Although the field of business analytics was born in the 1950s, it is only in the last decade that we have seen an exponential increase in our ability to capture data, analyze it, derive insights, and take timely action. ‘Always-on’ data and predictive intelligence are transforming how we view the world and how decisions are made.

I saw this first-hand when we created one of the first data-powered online advertising platforms at Turn. Whereas in the past, internet marketing was largely based on a ‘Mad Men’ world of hunches and anecdotes, the shift to using real-time data, visualization, and algorithms dramatically boosted the effectiveness of ad campaigns and gave marketers a nuanced understanding of their audience—and brought us closer to a truly personalized Internet.

New Tools For Old Questions
The fact is, in today’s high-velocity world, having timely information at your fingertips can make all the difference between staying ahead of the competition and going out of business.

The modern organization changed. We are faced with a new economic reality where many skill sets are becoming obsolete and software is eating the world. We now have globally distributed workforces and a digital culture that is always on. Millennials are no longer newcomers to the workforce; they have already become the majority. Things have and continue to change.

HR’s Timely Turn to Data
HR leaders, managers, and organizational psychologists alike are struggling to understand the nature of today’s workplace while it changes under their feet. Do you know what drives your employees? What makes them happier and more productive at work? What about Millennials? Or people in your Asia-Pacific locations? Do the investments you make in your employees actually affect their performance? Who are your top performers? How can you empower and motivate other employees to excel?

Until now, technology companies have largely failed to provide people operations teams with the tools needed to understand and develop their organizations. The old methods are neither scalable nor actionable; they are intrusive, slow, and now mostly irrelevant. Annual surveys are always a year too late. Binders filled with paper reports cannot give the answers that interactive visualizations and smart predictive insights can. Timely course-correction is not an option when you are stuck with data that is not up-to-date.

People Analytics Helps Organizations Compete
For years, researchers and firms like Gallup and Deloitte have reported the link between employee engagement and company performance. Some of the world’s most successful companies—including Google, Procter & Gamble, Harrah’s, Progressive, Starbucks, and even the soccer team AC Milan—are investing heavily in people analytics to help power organizational change with great results.

These analytics help organizations make more informed, strategic decisions about their people. Best Buy, for example, found that every 0.1 per cent increase in employee engagement was worth $100,000 annually at a single store. This led the company to hold employee engagement surveys on a quarterly basis as compared to annually.

A Vision for People Operations
People operations teams need easy-to-use tools that put data at their fingertips, allowing them to make informed decisions based on meaningful insights. Organizational behaviour and change should be guided by data that links attitudinal employee feedback with key performance indicators, and marries it with demographics and historical data to create insights that cut across function, culture, engagement, and outcomes.

Goutham Kurra is co-founder of Glint.

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