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When Starbucks hit a rough patch in 2007 when the company’s stock went down by 42%, Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks to take the reins. He navigated the company through myriad changes, but one thing he was very particular about – people. Schultz maintained that the most important people at Starbucks were its employees, not its customers. If the management put employees first, they would in turn lookout for the customers. The solution worked in favor of the company with Starbucks gaining 143% in 2009.

The most important asset of any organization is its people. However, in the past couple of years, we saw the pandemic hugely affecting how companies dealt with their employees. Organizations were forced to reinvent the way they worked, from collaboration to communication, performance and engagement. Remote workforce management became the norm, as well as a critical factor in determining organizational success.

A survey revealed that 90% of HR leaders planned on allowing employees to work remotely, even after the widespread adoption of the COVID-19 vaccinations, while 65% of them would continue to offer employees the flexibility to work according to their schedules. In the past two years, Human Resources (HR) became central and a decisive part of a company’s board meetings, not only for managing people in the crisis but also how to get the maximum output from remote work.

With the roles of CHROs and HR professionals elevated, it is time to move from just managing the hybrid and remote working teams based on gut feelings and face values to data-driven decision-making. HR professionals must align their priorities around data intelligence to attract and retain remote talent, be it in-house or on-demand. It is time for People Analytics, which is not ‘analytics of people, but analytics for people.’

Workforce in the New Normal

As organizations steer towards recovery, CHROs and HR managers face a totally different scenario, the new work landscape. Both from the perspective of onsite employees who had never known what remote working was like as well as on-demand talents who were used to working on projects, primarily based out of client locations.

A couple of years ago, working from home was limited to a handful of organizations which was further limited to a day or two at best per employee per month, not to mention certain roles that needed the talent to be either in-office or on secondment.

Fast forward to 2021, geo-locations do not matter much. What matters is the skillsets talent brings to the table and how well they adjust to working in the new normal. In such a scenario, envisioning their well-being and at the same time, ensuring that they are at their productive best is both critical as well as challenging.

A large pool of talent loved the idea of working from home or anywhere with good internet connectivity. This is also true for the ones who were adventurous enough to venture into multi-client projects such as freelancers, creative professionals and tech talent who chose to work on-demand and make a difference with their skillsets. According to McKinsey research, 80% of people maintained that they enjoy working from home while 41% felt that they are more productive than they had been before.

While people reacted well to the remote work concept, not everything was in place and most of the performance analyses were based on the instincts of the HR managers or the success of a particular project. What is needed, however, is insights into understanding how the work gets done and which teams are the most effective at collaborating and, eventually, delivering game-changing ideas. And while HR managers are at it, it is also critical to measure what is impacting the remote workers and how best to address those issues.

Workers are Customers

While Howard Schultz was right in putting his people before customers, times have changed. Today, our workforce comprising of knowledge workers is no less than customers. They like their freedom, they want flexibility in work, they want to take on meaningful projects and if they get it, they will be the best advocates of the brand they work for and the best face of the company to the end customers.

Moreover, as the trend suggests, the future of work is either remote or hybrid. LinkedIn’s work trend analysis shows that in-demand jobs will be done remotely in future, while the International Labor Organization maintains that over 600 million working population will consist of potential remote workers. Can such a huge workforce be catered to based merely on instincts?

Enter People Analytics

It is important for business and HR leaders to realize such a massive shift in the way remote work gets done and take the necessary steps to design people-centric processes based on that. What can help them is keeping track of the metrics that matter the most when it comes to managing a remote workforce. That’s when People Analytics comes into the picture.

HR managers can harness People Analytics to gain insights on both individual’s as well as team’s productivity. With it, they can get critical information on people’s well-being, collaboration, focus time and potential distractions which may arise from within the organizational processes such as lengthy meetings and unproductive sessions, etc.   

Case in point, Uber. The ride-hailing firm made use of People Analytics for those working from home. Interestingly, they found out that the remote workers with children at home, with the schools being shut, were not far worse on the employee well-being metrics. This prompted Uber to act upon it and introduce greater flexibility for such groups to help them strike a better work-life harmony.

The company also leveraged People Analytics to find out that employees were losing out on their focus time and eventually their productivity owing to several interruptions in the form of team huddles. The company was quick enough to roll out a few apps that could help employees create more focus time by adjusting their work calendars.

Organizations have been leveraging people analytics in some form or the other, such as Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) which is a derivative of the former. ONA has so far been critical in determining patterns of collaboration among remote talents.

There can be instances when remote teams may be working beyond their work hours yet unable to complete their deliverables. In such a scenario, companies use People Analytics to help talent succeed in a remote environment by churning out time-tracking data, assimilating the work done and converting it into insights that can help teams manage and take corrective actions to complete the tasks in future.

Moreover, various metrics such as performance ratings, peer reviews, client reviews and other evaluations when taken into consideration would be an enabler in ensuring that remote talents are at their productive best, leading to greater work satisfaction and reducing churn.

People Analytics Best Practices

Before HR managers dive right into People Analytics, it’s always great to know the best practices.

  • Do not narrow down your analytics to just a few non-flexible metrics
  • Focus more on outcomes and talent behavior than what will be profitable for the organization
  • Provide clear and concise feedback to the talent for their holistic growth
  • Set clear measurement metrics for the analytics team and communicate it well to the talent


Eileen Chan is Commercial Director at Hire Digital, which helps enterprises and high-growth startups build and enhance their digital capabilities with a world-class network of digital marketers, developers, and designers. Clients including Expedia, Shopify and Philips have access to high performing talents on demand.

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