Blog: The world of small data and HR insighting

Strategic HR

The world of small data and HR insighting

From experimenting to going through a customer’s journey, here’s how can focus on driving the right employee experience.
The world of small data and HR insighting

One can stumble upon insights in most serendipitous manner and yet powerful insights are those which shapes or reconfigures your existing mindset about the topic.

A chance read of the book “Small Data” by Martin Lindstrom triggered our thoughts as to how HR can benefit and how should organization go about acquiring insights. 

For instance, we conducted a study on understanding of how fairness is perceived by employees, looked at aspects of fairness in terms of manager behavior, principles of equality in people processes, organizational reward etc. The pre-test with five questions on fundamentals of performance management system (followed by in-depth insighting exercises) as most employees were linking fairness with transparency of PMS process. 

What we stumbled on is that the knowledge of basic PMS processes (in organizational context) resulted in significantly higher score in fairness perception. A greater effort was now placed in educating and reinforcing various HR policies and processes which was easily comprehensible to the employees to enhance perception of fairness. 

Shift from employee engagement to employee experience

The last few decades had seen extensive research on employee engagement and strategies organizations adopted to enhance employee engagement. The trend, however, is moving from employee engagement to employee experience. This is fundamentally a philosophical shift from top-down policies aimed at employee engagement to bottom-up where processes, places, and workflows are designed around the pre-existing tendencies of the employees. 

Employee experience can be shaped by HR professionals and leaders who are more attuned to the needs and wants of employees and are able to bring in flexibility within the organization to result into outperformance. Just like retailers are changing based on customer activity and desire, so will we need HR professionals to acquire the eye for identifying trends and making sense of them.

Building insighting capability in organizations 

Living the life of the customer (and employee!!!) 

In the ‘tractor and farm’ machinery industry, the key challenge is to really connect with farmers and empathize with their world. Since employees lead a predominantly urban life and fail to connect with the aspirations of people in rural areas, the company designed a ‘farm insighting’ program, using which we help our employees “live the farmer’s life” and participate in the farmer’s daily habits and ecosystem. What the program does is to effectively shatter the existing mindset about farmers and recast our thinking about farming community.  

Such similar immersion experiences are required in HR for understanding cohorts like millennials and devising meaningful employee experiences for them.

Insighting experts 

Though every employee (especially customer facing) require capability to understand and interpret customer behaviors,  creation of in-house team of experts lends seriousness and importance to insighting as an organizational capability .

Choosing people from unconventional backgrounds really helps bring fresh insights. The insighting stage needs to be an integral part of product development and innovation processes and now even for conceptualization of HR programs and policies. Moreover, an in-house insighting team can build capability on people insighting for HR folks. 

Conduct people related experiments 

From Pavlov’s dog to Hawthorne group behavior, experiments have thrown up interesting perspective on human behavior and motivations. Leverage multiple tools like survey, group discussion, one-on-one insighting etc. Often, looking at same/similar information from multiple tools and stakeholder perspective (referred as “triangulation” in research parlance) offers better insights.

So what’s your take? Do you think we need to create HR insighting COE in organizations? Will insighting as capability be necessary differentiator for HR folks? Will we witness collaboration from data-scientists and insighting experts to see merger of "big" and "small" data in HR? Awaiting to hear your thoughts. 

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Topics: Strategic HR

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