Data Can Drive You Apart from Your Employees

3 Minutes Read


One thing I really enjoy as the founder and CEO of KangoGift is the great many strong relationships I’ve built with contemporaries in the profession.  When I’m speaking with these various HR leaders we know each other well enough to start out with the small talk to set a lively mood.  As we move towards business talk there is always the discussion of the wider industry and its trends and interesting tidbits. 

A frequent topic comes up and that’s why with all of these fancy HR data solutions that promise the moon and the stars, yet do not sell well?  Two reasons come to mind, some of them are a product in search of a problem. The second goes back to the old issue that while you can learn a lot from data you can learn a lot more from information. 


So when I look back at this move from the data is our god/machine learning formula of 5 years ago. (2017/18) I see 3 things that have totally changed. Our new realities are.


  • Top Down Is Dead: Start from the bottom up
  • Data: The new 4-letter word
  • How we got here is less important than where we are going


Let’s look at these in more detail.


Top Down Is Dead: Start from the bottom up-It seems like a lifetime now.  Those carefree days of 2017 and 2018.  Back then we were all talking about this thing called machine learning.  Look back at some of the material we wrote back then machine learning seems like that haircut or piece of clothing no longer in style.


The reason for that is because machine learning is not in style.  What I mean by this is that while we will always have machine learning and it will continue to offer tremendous benefits; the obsession we all had with it no longer represents the reality of today’s employee engagement world. 


What I am hearing from potential partners is that they need information period!  The way you gather information is from the bottom and work your way up.  While certain technologies have supporting roles to play they will never be more than just reporting on the information collected. You need to find a way to learn from what’s being said rather than wait for some technology to tell you.


Data is the new 4 letter word–Along a similar vein is that employee engagement is lapsing into another tool to be measured and judged by if X meets Y or what ver you use. The purpose here is not to count how often your managers are engaging with employees but to get them to do so.  


One thing I find I am constantly telling HR leaders is that employee engagement is not some box to be checked off and it’s done. It is about building strong relationships.  Employees need to have an authentic experience to trust your management team.  If we want to see employees engaged so we have something that looks good on a spreadsheet then not only are we missing the point, we’re acting in a counterproductive way. 


How we got here is less important than where we are going- The key to success is self examination.  The ability to look at what is going on and using that to move forward.  The data addict can’t do that because they are so busy compiling and then analyzing the data that by the end of it all, if it ends, we have lost any useful means to interpret what it all means. 


What is needed is that ability to start fresh and say OK from this day forward and so on.  This isn’t throwing in the towel. Quite the opposite in fact.  It is taking that moment to stop, catch our proverbial breath and look around. From this position you can see what is really happening and can do so in a fashion that is measured and provides great accuracy. 


So what next?  Let me leave you with 3 takeaways.


  • It’s not about the tech,it’s about the information provided. 20 spreadsheets are likely to miss areas of key concerns if they are removed from the employees who have those concerns.
  • Data can drive you apart from your employees.  An adherence to it above all else makes engagement just another thing to be done and defeats the purpose of engagement
  • Taking data as some type of river is the exact wrong way to do employee engagement. You need to pause, look around and see what is happening.  Then you’ll know what your next steps are. 


Data is there to provide a source of information to help you make decisions.  When you look to the data as the decider for your employee engagement then you’re doing two things wrong. Your misusing data and your running a really terrible employee engagement program. 


Be wise and use data to help you make decisions and not tell you what decisions to make. 

Todd Horton