Diagnosing and treating workplace problems

Workforce analytics answer a simple but often overlooked question: what do we need to know about our organization and workforce to run the company more effectively, and how do we turn that knowledge into action, according to Carl Hoffmann, Eric Lesser and Tim Ringo in their book Calculating Success: How the New Workplace Analytics Will Revitalize Your Organization. Four key areas in which analytics can effectively be employed to improve workforce productivity are:

  • Identifying the work that needs to be done and the processes, structures and roles needed to accomplish the organization’s strategy
  • Determining how effectively the human capital supply chain is filling those roles with people capable of doing the work at the quantity, quality and cost required of the business model
  • Discovering how engaged and motivated the workforce is to meet or exceed performance standards
  • Detecting the need for change, testing innovations, and disseminating them throughout the organization.

The authors go on to describe their six-step approach to addressing workforce challenges, involving first understanding what has to be done and then turning that knowledge into action.

In some ways, workforce analytics appears to be a reincarnation of Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management”. One of the key examples is Qantas Airways, which used scorecard analytics to drive workforce productivity increases, echoing the way Taylor used time-and-motion studies to squeeze more work out of labourers. On the other hand, workforce analytics is more about identifying problems with processes than it is about forcing employees to work harder. In one of the other examples, workforce analytics helped demonstrate that high employee turnover was attributable to poorly organized management incentives.

While the book describes a broad approach to diagnosing and treating workplace problems, it does not go into much detail about specifics. Every problem may be different, but I would have thought that there might be a range of standard analytics which are useful in most situations. The examples described throughout the book are interesting, but by the end I had no more than a very general idea of what workforce analytics could achieve.

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