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Data’s Power to Inform Decisions in Business and Work

From hiring to compensation and promotion, data helps business leaders make better choices when it comes to their workforce.

When faced with decisions to make -- no matter the topic or implication -- it’s human nature to seek data. We all want information to help us make the right choice, to prove our assumptions, to validate the courses of action we’re about to take. In business, data is driving important decisions in marketing, operations, logistics and other essential business functions. We’ve seen that the insights drawn from data can provide a reliable path to better outcomes.

But data about people has perhaps never been valued like it is today. People data is propelling better assessments about the workforce and the global economy. From hiring to compensation to promotion and everything in between, each data point reveals a truth that can help business leaders and human capital management (HCM) professionals make better choices when it comes to their workforce. Collectively, such data-driven decisioning can unlock the doors to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world of work.

How Data Can Inform People Decisions

With the technological tools we have today, we can mine and use real-time data to track important HR metrics, but more importantly, we can proactively help solve HR issues like turnover and retention. Through aggregated and anonymized real-time data, we can start to see trends emerge and even predict the likelihood. Data detailing how long people stay at a job, how much they earn and how often they get promoted can help businesses get a clearer picture of where they stand against the backdrop of the global economy. For example, analyzing their people data enabled one company to discover the reasons for involuntary turnover in their organization. Using these insights, they changed processes, procedures, and policies, which resulted in a 20% reduction in turnover.

Benchmarking data – knowing what other businesses in your industry or geography are paying – can also mean the difference between attracting talent to your organization or losing them to a competitor. Today’s labor marketplace has more jobs than candidates and is in constant flux. Companies need to know how they compare to others on compensation, benefits, and other key employment factors. In this environment, having up-to-date HR intelligence is crucial.

Data as a Flashlight

There’s no question that having access to this level of detail in your people data can help make your organization more competitive in the talent marketplace. But perhaps more importantly, this transparency into your people analytics can help you identify gaps in representation and equity and take meaningful steps to close them. There’s a need in society to continue to push forward with creating an inclusive environment for everybody, and the first way to advance that goal is by measuring progress. If you can’t measure progress, then you can’t adequately assess whether you’re making improvements to people’s situations.

Examining a critical DEI challenge, let’s consider pay equity. At the end of the day, there's nothing more important than making sure that people are paid correctly and fairly for their contributions. In the past, it’s been difficult to accurately assess differences in compensation. We’ve known for some time about gender pay inequities but they’re often too high-level for companies to tangibly action against. The resulting discussions around the root of the issue and how to fix it also become too high-level in response. This doesn’t help leaders and HR professionals who want to reduce pay inequity in their organizations. By analyzing internal HR data and then comparing it to benchmarks across industry, demographic, geography, function and job titles, companies can now pinpoint where their organization is missing the mark.

One misconception is that hiring people at a better rate of pay will help close the gap. If you bring people in, you’re not actually creating upward mobility inside of the organization. By examining compensation across a wide range of job titles and companies and evaluating what it really means for somebody to move up, organizations can better understand where they might need to adjust course.

Pay transparency is another important and often forgotten element to closing pay gaps. Data can empower and giving employees more information about the pay of their colleagues and for similar roles in their industries can help workers across underrepresented groups gain negotiating leverage.

Data can help organizations resolve these inequities proactively, resulting in higher employee retention and better talent acquisition. Data helps you see around corners and acts as a flashlight into dark places on your path forward. We can use data to identify when people aren't paid to the level that they should be paid. We can create tools to plan and budget to adjust for those pay gaps. Ultimately, the goal is to turn real-time data into actionable insights and workplace solutions that help businesses and people thrive. By February 2022, 75% of clients using the solution have shown improvement in pay equity, making a $1.1B impact on communities in the US.

Driving Change through Data

It’s important for organizations to reflect on what’s visible within their people analytics, looking for the context and connections that create uneven effects. When patterns emerge, examine what happened earlier to understand potential causes and tailor proposed solutions. When it comes to creating a better, more equitable world of work, focus on removing barriers to progress and building programs and policies into your workplace culture that allow your employees to show up as their best selves. By using data to channel your efforts, you can effect meaningful change and become part of the benchmark that challenges others to follow suit.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer