Data possesses enormous potential to help organizations stay competitive, save money, boost profits, power digital transformation, identify future leaders and design programs that keep employees engaged and productive. Companies have gotten the message, with most laying claim to vast repositories of data about their customers, employees, processes and competitors. By some estimates, 463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally by 2025. Collecting all that data is a sizeable investment, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that much of that investment is wasted.
According to Splunk, 55% of all information collected by organizations falls into the category of “dark data,” which Gartner defines as “the information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes (i.e., analytics, business relationships and direct monetizing).”
Why do so many organizations fail to effectively utilize their data? The problem starts at the top. From the C-suite down, everyone needs to be evangelizing that data is a strategic asset that must be managed across the entire enterprise. Sure, you need a strong technical foundation, proper governance and accountability at each level, but it’s also about bringing together departmental silos and perpetuating the mindset that it’s the organization’s data. Creating a data-oriented culture requires a commitment from the CEO and the board, and there must be ongoing, informed conversations with those who lead data initiatives.
Organizations should recognize that decisions grounded in data and analytics are superior to those based on conventional thinking and approaches. Unfortunately, those leading the functions that stand to gain the most simply don’t know what data is being captured or where it’s stored. This is especially true in HR where the concern often persists that data and automation technologies are going to “take the human out of human resources.” Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth. When used to their full potential, data and analytics greatly benefit employees in the form of recruitment and onboarding, developmental opportunities, innovative programs and policies. Additionally, HR would advance its position as a critical value creator for the organization — not just another shared service cost center — and could more effectively drive performance, enhance the employee experience and, ultimately, improve the bottom line.
What’s more, people can contribute more fully to the organization when they have a better understanding of its goals and challenges. From the C-suite to frontline employees, everyone can benefit from greater access to data, as it will inspire them to exchange ideas and share in their execution, not to mention drive further efficiencies, cost savings and risk reduction.
In order to harness data and make it actionable in meaningful ways, organizations should focus on three key areas:
Identify insights across the value chain. Organizations aspire to make data-driven decisions, yet many struggle at the onset once the data has been created. In too many cases, siloed models make it difficult to access and reconcile data from different sources, thereby creating a piecemeal, disparate approach to human capital, which can adversely affect top- and bottom-line performance. Fortunately, we now have the automation technology to integrate those datasets so leaders can derive and operationalize insights and apply the same rigor around people decisions as they do to other financial considerations.
Leverage data to improve the employee experience. Analyzing data to understand employee choices and behaviors around their health and financial wellbeing allows organizations to have better line of sight into the downstream impact of those decisions, like healthcare costs, workforce productivity and employee satisfaction — all things that affect employee engagement and their ability to maximize the full suite of employer benefits provided to them.
Take advantage of the digital era. AI, robotics and predictive analytics are upending nearly every industry today. But organizations should consider the possibilities for the workforce if they use these technologies to optimize workforce management, pay people faster, provide them with personalized retirement and financial solutions or even anticipate their healthcare needs, like using biometric data to nudge them to seek care before health issues arise.
Data isn’t a passing fad. It’s truly a table stakes capability that has been catapulted to the top as organizations recalibrate their strategies in the face of a pandemic, market volatility and geopolitical instability. Against this backdrop, organizations continue to rapidly invest in transformation, but they have been slow to adopt the data-driven strategies to improve internal business processes and their employee experience.
All of this is possible for organizations, and it’s possible today. The power lies in creating partnerships that bring together data, insights and technology — and the scalability and repeatability they produce — to make changes that integrate wellbeing into employees’ lives and create great experiences, while also driving better outcomes for the business.
Originally published by Forbes on August 31, 2020.