Four Ways Managers Can Use Big Data in Practical Ways

2 Minutes Read

When I talk to HR innovators we all agree that we are tired of hearing about big data and AI in abstract ways. Our goals are to help solve specific challenges - create a great culture, increase retention, and help managers be effective. It shouldn’t matter how we solve them. The goal is to solve them.

There is a middle ground between relying on our “gut” and pure data. The Goldilocks zone is to balance managerial judgement with data-backed insights. Rather than reduce success to numbers and remove the human aspect, there is the opportunity for employee engagement to not only decrease dissatisfaction but also measure managerial effectiveness.

In these days of tight employment retaining our employees is hard, so let’s help managers be successful.

Use Data to Empower

Track and then study your various programs to gain insights. One opportunity presented by an engagement tracking and evaluation tool is that you will be able to see gaps and outliers to compare recognition to performance ratings. Let’s say no one ever says thank you or gives feedback to a high potential employee. This will alert you that you should dig deeper. Is that high-performing employee at risk for leaving? Or is that high performing employee toxic to work with?

Use AI to Be a Manager’s Assistant

An artificial intelligence component can serve as a manager’s assistant. Have data tools find patterns and understand what is meaningful. Then send notifications to managers as suggestions. Managers can then determine what action to take. The big idea is to let AI be an assistant that can remind A, B or C that they need to engage their teams to ensure satisfaction remains very high. The best part is that the assistant can offer tailored help for each manager.

Measure Retention and Turnover

Let’s start with an organization where there are 3 managers we’ll call A, B and C. Each one has 10 employees. During a certain period of time, let’s say 6 months, A loses 5 employees B loses 3 and C loses 1. So what can we learn from this information? Is A worse than C?

Initial data may point to that but when you dig deeper that may not be the case. For one thing we know nothing about the department; the person and we have no real bench-marking tool to measure any trends. Maybe C lost 1 but lost 4 last year. So then how do we find out why? 

An analytics tool that can measure this in an automated fashion and alert stakeholders more quickly. Tools also can help specific managers and departments rather than focus on organization-wide trends. Individual managers can be examined to see how and when they offer positive feedback to their teams. 

Either way the organization’s ideal bench-marking and automatic analysis and sharing of data results in the identification of a situation before it becomes serious and a very costly threat. 

Develop a System of Equitable Engagement 

Greater equity makes us all feel richer. This idea was explored by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson in their book, “The Spirit Level”. Uneven employee recognition and feedback doesn’t motivate the lower employees to step up. Instead corporate cultures where all employees share in the company’s success are motivated to not only benefit themselves, but their colleagues.

Data and insights can help managers reward employees on a personal level. Frequent authentic feedback is meaningful. No more praise for Mary at a meeting for her hard work on the launch while making Mike feel marginalized because his hard work helped on another project. That quick “great job on your project Mike. You helped us live our value of teamwork and solve client X’s issue quickly” made as simply as possible builds that sense of community and accomplishment that makes the employee feel like a contributor.


The way to measure success with managers is by the way their direct hires react to them and understand their role in the larger organization’s success. By utilizing big data and AI in ways that offer direct analysis of employee engagement, managers in need of help can be identified and, guided towards the right course of action.

Todd Horton