16th September 2020
In an effort to find a competitive edge, business owners are increasingly recognising the value of tracking data to help understand and boost their business performance.
We’ve spoken previously about the ever-growing rate of technology, and one of the many benefits offered by the tech available to us in 2020 is the ability to track what people are doing.
Essentially, if you can track something, you can review it. When you’re able to keep a record of, say, disciplinary actions or unauthorised absences, you can begin to paint a picture of any patterns or issues that need addressing and start to work towards improving those areas.
Why you should Track Data
Collecting and interpreting data can help you to make better business decisions. From trends to return on investment and internal processes to staffing issues.
Data is the truth – Data doesn’t lie, and as long as you are tracking your digital assets correctly, it’s impossible to manipulate your data to tell you what you want to hear. It tells you what your business is and where it’s at, rather than what and where you want it to be.
Data improves things – When you know exactly where you stand, you are then in the prime position to establish a baseline from which you can measure improvement.
Data predicts the future – Data provides an objective view of your company, and when you start to measure your improvement you can then start to paint a picture of how things are likely to progress as time goes on.
Data breeds innovation – When people have access to data companywide, they’re empowered to view the business objectively and to come up with better ways of doing things.
Data is your competitive advantage – Your data is unique to your business and that’s something that you have over your competitors. When used correctly, you can make it a considerable competitive advantage as you will understand your customers and your market better. You can use it to extrapolate the future, inspire new ideas, monitor improvements, based on what’s actually happening in your business.
What you Need to Consider
First thing’s first. There a many variables and considerations that you need to think about before you start delving into your data.
- Know the difference between owning and managing data compared to data analysis. It’s all well and good having data to manage and review, but you need to know exactly what to look for to understand what is being shown by that data.
- Data is only as good as the moment it’s inputted. So many variables are at play which can change the meaning or value of your data as time passes, so it’s important to know how much of the data is clean and quality data.
- Try not to look at too much data. Having a large quantity of data doesn’t necessarily equate to good quality data, and can often lead to skewed results.
- Scale it back to what you are looking for and why to understand the value of your data.
- Data privacy and compliance. Make sure you don’t collect and store information you don’t need and ensure that any retained data is removed and anonymised after the appropriate amount of time.
- Consider how your data insights tie into return on investment (ROI).
Understanding your Data
Think of an iceberg – when you look at it from above the water, it seems manageable. It isn’t until you delve below water level that you realise just how expansive it is. The same can be said for data.
If you look at the data superficially, you risk missing everything else deeper down. And while the data you can see initially may seem wonderful and insightful, if you aren’t looking at the full scale of what’s happening, you could be missing out on important factors that should play a part in any decision making that happens as a result of that data.
Take a company whose target is for warehouse workers to pick 100 items per hour. If data shows that those employees are working at 150% of their target (so they’re picking 150 items per hour as opposed to 100) you might think that they are really efficiently, meaning that the business is benefiting from all their hard work. However, when you look further into why they are able to work at 150% of their target, it’s likely that you’ll find they are cutting corners somewhere, which could very well be having an adverse effect elsewhere in the process.
It’s also really important to look at your data in perspective. The information given by data can be grossly misled by the way it’s presented. For example, if I showed you a chart showing ice cream sales versus drowning incidents throughout the year with correlating values, you may be led to the conclusion that if you eat ice cream, you’re more likely to drown. Yet, when you take a step back to think about those statistics logically, more ice creams are sold during the summer months when people flock to the seafront, just as the highest numbers of surfers are riding the waves and children are swimming in the sea, leading to more accidents in the water. The lesson here is that correlation doesn’t equate to causation.
Understanding Confirmation Bias
“Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. It is an important type of cognitive bias that has a significant effect on the proper functioning of society by distorting evidence-based decision–making.”
Essentially, your data should drive evidence-based decision-making, not confirm what you already believe. Data should be used to identify and improve on areas that could be better. If your data is telling you everything you think you already know, you need to challenge it. Otherwise you won’t ever truly understand what’s going on in your business.
0 as a Metric
As an employer, having a low quantity in areas such as disciplinaries, grievances and absences is something to be desired. However, zero is not always necessarily a good metric to achieve.
Overall, having a 0 metric for aspects of your business such as the examples above can be a positive if you have identified that these areas need some improvement and you’ve put in the effort to bring that number down. But it’s important to track the actions taken to drop that number.
If you have a zero metric month after month, this would suggest one of a number of things:
- You have absolutely no behavioural problems in your business at all.
- Your managers run an extremely tight ship.
- Your managers don’t know how (or want) to address their employee issues.
- Your managers don’t feel confident or comfortable with challenging poor performance or behaviour.
To understand your zero metric, you need to establish whether you are tracking informal actions such as verbal warnings or performance improvement plans. This is the biggest indicator of a manager’s engagement with driving company performance and demonstrates whether interventions are actually taking place to dissuade unwanted behaviour or if these indiscretions are simply not being recorded.
To turn that zero metric into more useful data that can actually help to inform decisions within your business, you need to track how managers and departments react to any issues that arise.
By recording early interventions against more serious disciplinaries or dismissals, it’s suddenly much clearer to see the positive impact those managerial interactions are having on your employees’ behaviour.
Keeping it Simple
Many people fear tracking or analysing their data because they’re worried about what they will find, but my avoiding this information, you risk missing out on opportunities to improve.
The most important things to bear in mind when considering your data and, ultimately, improving business performanace are:
- That you can’t change what’s happened. Your data is your data.
- Be careful of confirmation bias.
- Match your metrics to your values and issues.
- Focus on data that matters.
- Share your data across the business – don’t keep it to yourself.
- Don’t overcomplicate things. Keep it as simple as possible.
Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Care Team to provide our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software and is responsible for our day-to-day marketing activities and strategies.