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Making Your Data More Human

by Todd Horton on October 1, 2020

I was at my local outlet of a major consumer store, I won’t say which one of course, and had my same experience.  I bought a birthday card for a friend and got a receipt that was, on the order of things, four and a half to five feet long. I think more trees died making the receipt then making the card.  

Of course the benefit in such a long receipt was supposed to be all of the coupons that I would get.  Hey look at the discount on toothpaste.  Well that would have been helpful when I bought the 2-pack of toothpaste on sale the last time I was there. Because this happens all the time I have to say the data they are keeping on me is totally worthless as well as cold and impersonal. 

The point here is that data, even useful data, can be a hindrance with no value add seen.  When I am speaking to the human resources leaders I deal with daily, I am hearing that data collection is becoming more difficult for a number of reasons, which can result in the perception of data as something cold and impersonal..  However we all know it’s more important than ever to have good, reliable data. 

So let me share with you three things I am hearing a lot. 

  • How can data survey information be both relevant and how can we avoid survey fatigue?
  • What is in it for the employee to share their opinions with the organization?
  • Am I using the right tools to make this data useful and easy to digest?

Let’s look at this in some more detail

How can data survey information be both relevant and avoid overdoing it--Let me say what we all know, survey fatigue is a huge issue with employee engagement.  It’s a bad joke to send out a survey to ask people if they are sending out too many surveys.  When I’m talking with HR leaders we all know this is the case and they struggle with how to deal with it. 

First let me say I am not counseling against doing surveys.  In fact they need to be done for any employee engagement program to be successful.  You absolutely need to do them if you want any actionable information.  The key here is to do them in a selective way so that you get a truly representative measurement that will help you engage with your employees better. 

What is in it for the employee for sharing their opinions--Let’s be real here, most of the information we gather is of no value to the employee.  Like my experience with the 5 foot long receipt, there is zero value provided. So then how can we provide value to them? 

A possible way I heard about was when I was talking to a friend of mine who understands what people want from giving their data.  They want something real in return. Your employees should be allowed the opportunity to provide open ended feedback.  Don’t force a constant numerical, rank ordered system.  Give them a way to provide open ended feedback.  Asking them to assign a number to their satisfaction on a scale of one to five is a perfectly fine way to do however some open ended answer may be more pertinent.   

Think of it like this, there is a big difference between being dissatisfied because the air conditioning is too high and you believe that the organization doesn’t value you and your contributions. 

Am I using the right tools to make this data useful and easy to digest--First, in full disclosure, what KangoGift does is sell a tool that makes the date useful and easy to digest.  So this is something I am very comfortable with and knowledgeable talking about and I can tell you that you need to wrap this all up so it can be seen in real-time.

All of this data needs to be more than collated and put into some type of graphic for a slide deck.  It needs to be seen as a living document that will allow you to have a constant and consistent insight into what your employees are thinking and allow you to develop programs and take actions to deal with them, 

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss some of the technologies you have to be more effective. While many of the HR leaders I work with have been focused on COVID-19 related matters, now that their jobs are returning to normal they will find that there are the same tools out there that can help them do their jobs much more effectively.  

Machine learning remains that effective and efficient tool today as it was before the world shut down.  It may, in fact, be more effective and efficient. 

So let me leave you with a few ideas to take away as you plan for 2021.

  • Plan for 2021!  Yes that’s right you have to plan for 2021. Sure there are lots of things out there that may happen between now and the end of the year but one thing remains true.  At the end of 11:59 PM on December 31st.  It will be 2021.  Will you be ready? 
  • Make sure your surveys are not overdone and lacking in a human voice.  Surveys are vital to employee engagement but we have to be careful not to overdo it and wear down our employees. While the data collected can be of tremendous value it helps both employees and managers if a human aspect is included.  As I like to say, wouldn’t you like to know if employees don’t like the aid-conditioning or their manager?  Both can contribute to an employee leaving.
  • Also, make sure you’re using the right tools when you’re trying to measure your employees. When I’m talking to HR innovators on behalf of KangoGift I’m hearing the same thing and that is that we need to get a grip on what is going on.  You need to be able to measure and get ahead of any problems just like you were doing pre-COVID.  Machine learning is every bit as important, maybe more so, then it was before.  Use this technology to make your data more human like and allow you to use it in the new year. 

You have a lot of data, more than you’ll ever use.  But do you have data that reflects the human side of your organization Talking is the new trend and being human is now in vogue.  2020 was a storm out of hell so now going into 2021 you need to start relating to people and remember that retention is always going to be an issue so make that investment and add a human angle to your data.  Sooner or later you’re going to realize it’s the right move. 

Topics: Employee Recognition, Employee Engagement, Human Resources Trends, Machine Learning, employee retention

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