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Grow Your Business Technology

Big Data: It's Not Just for Customer Insights

Big Data: It's Not Just for Customer Insights
Credit: Paisan Changhirun/Shutterstock

Over the last couple of years, "Big Data" has become a huge buzzword in the business world. Whether this data comes from social networks, purchase histories, Web browsing patterns or surveys, the vast amount of consumer information that brands can gather and analyze has allowed them to improve and personalize their customers' experiences.

But for all the attention Big Data has received, many companies tend to forget about one application of it: employee engagement. When done in the right way, tracking, analyzing and sharing employee performance metrics can be very beneficial for both you and your staff.

"One of the things we've found to be very powerful is being able to analyze real-time information, boil it down into performance data and empower employees with reports from that data," said Jason Palmer, president of vehicle safety and efficiency company SmartDrive. "If you can provide employees with data to do their job better in a succinct, actionable way, it's very motivating."

"The more Big Data can be incorporated into an intimate individual experience, the better," added Brian Berchtold, vice president of marketing and business development at Hubbub Health, a company that uses social networks to challenge employees to live healthier lifestyles. "This demonstrates to the employee that the [experience] is not just 'off the shelf' and that it is relevant to the person. This personal relevance is shown to deliver higher engagement."

Applying Big Data analytics to your employees' performance helps you identify and acknowledge not only the top performers, but the struggling or unhappy workers, as well. Dean Croke, director of sales at transportation analytics firm Omnitracs, said that this is especially relevant in his industry, where companies that manage fleets of drivers need to know which employees are most at risk for accidents, voluntary termination or filing workers' compensation claims. Omnitracs uses predictive modeling, which aggregates thousands of data points to look for the risk signatures (discrete patterns in data) that managers can use to identify the cause of performance issues. [5 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged]

"It is not atypical for employers to characterize their workforce using the 80-20 rule — 20 percent of their employees cause 80 percent of their problems," Croake told Business News Daily. "Unable to identify the at-risk employees, managers treat each driver the same, oftentimes driving at-risk drivers further into the red zone. With predictive-modeling solutions, managers are able to address issues with at-risk drivers as a part of their day-to-day conversation. This can result in reduced workload, improved employee experience and reduced company risk."

If you want to introduce analytics technology to your employee engagement strategies, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Select and focus on the most important metrics. Analytics programs can pull and process data for a large number of metrics. Even when applying Big Data to customer service, many businesses struggle to keep up with the volume of information pouring in. For this reason, Palmer advised narrowing down your focus to only the most important key performance indicators (KPIs).

"Don't introduce too many metrics," Palmer said. "It becomes too difficult and confusing. If you can boil it down to some very simple statistics, like a score that incorporates the elements you want, everyone can focus on consolidated KPIs."

Find a program that integrates with your current systems. For any new software that you implement within your company, it's important to make the transition as seamless and simple for your employees as possible.

"The software has to work where the employees work already," said Matthew Bellows, CEO of sales email analytics program Yesware. "You can't make them switch tasks and go to another [platform] to aggregate the data stream. The software should genuinely assist the end user."

Bellows also noted that your choice of software should be a grassroots decision, and you should have buy-in from your employees before you ask them to use the new system.

Consider how employees will view themselves and others. Once you introduce performance and engagement analytics into your company, you'll have to consider how that program fits into employee relationships and workplace culture as a whole. For example, Hubbub displays an activity stream to the employee, showing not only the individual's engagement points, but those of the employee's social circle.

"[A company] needs to take into consideration the actions of the employee's co-workers and how to make these data points of interest to the employee," Berchtold said. "This helps to foster a respected and trusting engagement experience, and data needs to be used to build trust."

No matter what solution you choose, an analytics program moves you away from the traditional manual "reporting" process of performance measurement, helping make your staff more efficient, motivated and engaged, Bellows said.

"Business software is in the beginning stages of being useful [for performance measurement]," he said. "Businesses have not pushed for innovation as hard as consumers have, but now that's starting to change. We have the opportunity to say, 'Let's think about business processes in a different way and gather data in a way that matters.'"

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.