Using Data and Analytics to Enable the Employee Experience

Like Rome, high-performing teams aren’t built in a day. But, they are built from data. Greg Pryor, senior vice president of leadership and organizational effectiveness at Workday, shares how data can enable employees to do their best work.

What’s the secret to building high-performing teams? The answer is simple: data. The most innovative companies use data and analytics to frequently measure their employee experience. This gives businesses the insights they need to create an environment for employees to do their best work. But how are they measuring these conditions of success? Our senior vice president of leadership and organizational effectiveness, Greg Pryor, shares insights from Workday’s own employee experience. Here are the highlights from our conversation.

How has the rapid growth of data and technology changed employee expectations?

The company experience is very much paralleling the consumer experience. Whether we’re providing feedback about our ride service or restaurant experience, we’re appropriately trained as consumers to ask ourselves, "Was this experience good or bad?" 

It’s important to translate that real-time feedback experience to your employees as well. For us at Workday, we measure the employee sentiment every Friday with our Best Workday Survey. People often say, "Every Friday? Well, that seems a little too frequent." And my response is, "Our employees are having moments that matter all the time." We’ve collected more than 1.5 million data points through the survey, and we can actually see that the experience is much more dynamic than we would have expected.

Unlike with annual snapshots to understand the employee experience, we know where people stand with very timely measures of employee sentiment, especially during these incredibly dynamic times. With the weekly Best Workday Survey, we’re able to rotate through the entire survey of 34 questions every quarter. What some companies may do once every one or two years, we're actually doing four times a year. 

This enables us to do what we call a culture sprint, which allows us to understand the employee experience and respond as quickly as possible. Since we have the metadata, we can see, for example, if we’re delivering a similar belonging experience across gender, generation, geography, and, specifically in the US, across ethnic background as well. The insights we glean allow us to help our people leaders focus their attention on the most high-impact areas.

How can companies leverage data to better personalize the workplace experience?

You have to focus on what really matters to people and keep in mind where we are in the world of consumer experiences. For example, think about the traffic. The GPS on my phone doesn't tell me what traffic across the entire Bay Area looks like, it tells me where the traffic is building on my route home. That is the consumer experience: being highly relevant. 

Now, apply that to your own context. At Workday the context could be, "I'm a people leader in Pleasanton for the following team." We then look at the data and develop a specific course of action. When we curate content for our people leaders, it's based on their team's feedback, not mean averages. At Workday, we use machine learning and other data analytics to augment that and deliver highly relevant recommendations. I think that is going to be an increasingly fundamental element for all businesses. 

How can HR use data to quickly pivot the employee experience during times of uncertainty?

Regardless of the current environment, agility is going to remain central to organizations now and in the future. I think we just got a bigger dose recently than what we may have expected, but that ability to be agile will be increasingly important. One data point that we measure is how the employee experience for our office-based workers compares to our home-based or remote workers. Since Workday has that metadata, we know—and have been tracking for a while—we can compare those two experiences .

In light of the recent pandemic, there was only one clear decision: to have our employees work remotely to safeguard their health. But we had the data to know that, while there would be work that we'd have to do, in general our people leaders and employees have a very good track record of supporting remote work. Having those data points, being able to pivot, and knowing how we compare in different areas allows us to be much more informed and therefore agile. 

"Our aspiration is not to have a remarkable employee experience for some, but to have a remarkable employee experience for all."

Greg Pryor Senior Vice President of Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness at Workday

How can organizations measure metrics that are harder to quantify, such as inclusion and belonging?

Thanks to our wonderful partnership with Great Place to Work, six of the questions that we survey are related to what we call a Belonging Index. These questions are intended to measure people's sense of inclusion and belonging. Under the great leadership of our chief diversity officer, Carin Taylor, we aim to have no more than a 3% difference across gender, generation, geography, career level, and ethnic background in the U.S. 

Carin uses the example of a high school dance to explain inclusion. Inclusion means that you got invited to the dance. However, belonging is based on, "Do I feel like I'm invited to dance? Do I feel like the music resonates with me? Do I feel comfortable on the dance floor?" Our aspiration is not to have a remarkable employee experience for some, but to have a remarkable employee experience for all. We use the insights from the Belonging Index to strive to make sure everyone feels included and take specific action when it may not feel that way to some.

Do you have any advice for leaders looking to adopt a more data-driven approach to HR?

We've created a consumer experience and expectation with our Best Workday Pulse Survey, which is powered by the democratization of data. What's important about this is we push insights “out to the edge” and get it in the hands of our people leaders—where it matters most and action can be taken. Then we let those people make good decisions and deliver outcomes based on the data. I don't know how we would otherwise provide these insights. Every organization is going to have to embrace this in some form to be able to attract, engage, and enable the best workforce.

If you're interested in learning more about building high-performing teams, don't miss one of our upcoming #wdaychats on LinkedIn Live with Marcus Erb and Matthew Bush from Great Place to Work. Stay connected with us on LinkedIn for more details.

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