The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted a number of workforce norms, and none more foundational than the tradition of in-person work — which has now evolved to hybrid. The location of work has profound impacts on our connections with colleagues, idea generation, satisfaction with our roles, and overall work product. Accordingly, I am interested in the role of people analytics in setting new workforce norms as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. My questions concern not only the best practices that people analytics can recommend to increase satisfaction and productivity around workforces, but also how people analytics can set proactive rather than reactive norms to maximize employee satisfaction and productivity; i.e., rather than people analytics letting managers know that they need to be more in touch in a hybrid environment, having people analytics managers run analysis to determine the optimal mix of remote versus in person work to achieve employee satisfaction and company output.
The literature to this point has primarily addressed the former point, understanding how workforces can help support and retain their employees. A study by McKinsey included several insightful stats on workplace surveys illuminating worrisome trends, for example that 40% of a client company’s workforce had not had a single person check on them, and that these people were 40% more likely to demonstrate signs of mental distress. This survey is critical to understand pernicious workforce trends and identify simple solutions to curtail them.
Interestingly, the McKinsey study also highlighted D&I as a main reason to bolster people analytics during the pandemic. Here, women and women of color in particular are more likely to report burnout. As a result, these individuals have higher rates of attrition. Paying attention to demographic trends that people analytics data show will allow companies to rein in burnout and minimize attrition.
The McKinsey article also included a section on people analytics and real estate — the idea that people analytics can inform office space function. I wholeheartedly agree with this idea, that insights from employee behaviors should determine the workspace, and had never considered how people analytics could determine something as foundational and concrete as office space, from increasing the amount of sunlight that employees receive during the day, to creating an open floor plan to ensure the free flow of ideas.
However, I would like to see more of people analytics leading future of work conversations. This article, and literature on people analytics more broadly, contained little information on how people analytics will change in a hybrid work environment and post-pandemic overall. Insights from the people analytics function should be instrumental in shaping hybrid work and future of work policies for workforces going forward.