A Data-Driven Approach To Improving Employee Performance And Morale

By Isaac Kohen, founder of Teramind, provider of behavior analytics, business intelligence, and data loss prevention (“DLP”) for enterprises.

When Uber, the immensely popular and ubiquitous ride-hailing company, struggled to attract and retain enough drivers to support surging customer demand, the company turned to a tried-and-true tactic: They provided financial incentives (paywall). It didn’t work, and Uber, like many other companies, struggled to keep its talented workforce on the job.

Later, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took a different approach: He got behind the wheel to better understand his employees’ experiences and the factors pushing people off the job. His experiment yielded tangible results that informed the company’s approach to employee relations.

Khosrowshahi’s bold move is emblematic of the lengths leaders are willing to go to improve employee performance and morale.

Fortunately, most CEOs don’t have to hop behind the proverbial wheel to understand their employees’ concerns. They can take a data-driven approach to produce real-world, actionable insights to improve employee performance and morale.

Here’s how leaders can begin the process today.

1. Understand The Status Quo

Like any worthwhile solution, it works best when applied to a specific problem. This is especially true when you’re looking to elevate employee morale in your distinct organization.

While broad workforce data paints with a broad brush and helps identify macro trends, it can miss the nuances of your company, office or team. However, your organization’s people analytics can provide precise insights into your organization.

People analytics can come from a variety of sources.

For instance, in our digital-first work environments, user and entity behavior analytics solutions can help leaders understand and build a baseline for employee norms, including peak productivity periods, normative schedule preferences and workflow bottlenecks and redundancies.

Additionally, leaders can distribute employee sentiment surveys, gathering first-party data on everything from hybrid work preferences to personal job satisfaction.

Leaders can schedule individual meetings or group listening sessions where they can hear from employees directly to better understand challenges and opportunities facing individual employees and the collective organization.

By understanding the status quo, leaders can best identify potential solutions and necessary next steps to help people feel more fulfilled and become more productive at work.

2. Implement Measurable Solutions

Google, like many companies, wanted to bring employees back to the office. To celebrate the mandatory return, the company hired the pop star Lizzo to perform a company concert. It was the epitome of a grand gesture but one that is unlikely to make return-to-office mandates any easier for employees grappling with arduous commutes, childcare challenges or other aspects of remote work that made their lives easier.

Google’s efforts are laudable, but they also offer lessons for companies trying to solve real workplace challenges. Just like concerts, kombucha and five-o’clock beer carts can’t make up for not having childcare, one-off or imprecise solutions will be insufficient for helping leaders improve employees’ long-term performance and morale.

Instead, implement more tangible, measurable solutions that can be assessed for efficacy and impact.

For example, if a company wants to return employees to the office, it might start with a modified on-site schedule while assessing productivity and employee sentiment to determine future policies and protocols.

This might include analyzing employees’ work patterns to better understand employee productivity and evolving output trends.

For example, when Microsoft analyzed a group of employees’ keyboard strokes, it found an interesting trend. In addition to the traditional productivity peaks immediately before and after lunch, some employees were experiencing a third productivity peak in the evening. Companies that notice trends like these could decide to be more flexible in how they perceive workplace productivity, including when and where employees work.

Similarly, leaders across industries can lean on data and analytics, not vibes or personal preferences, to make decisions they can explain and justify to their employees.

3. Assess Long-Term Impact

Great leaders are constantly measuring employee sentiment, understanding their organization’s nuances and responding with meaningful solutions that promote positive change. They know that impacting employee productivity and morale isn’t a one-time obligation but an ongoing effort.

That’s why measurable solutions are so important. Leaders should analyze and assess a solution’s long-term impact so they can remain agile amid ever-evolving challenges.

Practically, this means using data to address or identify company challenges. Undoubtedly, this requires integrating often-disparate digital data sets into a single repository so information is as integrated and interconnected as possible. Specifically, leaders could analyze:

• Employee Engagement: Companies should monitor signs of decreasing employee engagement. For instance, lower participation in company activities, decreased collaboration or declining performance could all indicate lower engagement.

• Turnover Rate: High turnover rates could signal dissatisfaction among employees. If employees in certain roles or departments are leaving more frequently, there may be specific issues to address in those areas.

• Productivity Decline: Data showing tasks taking longer to complete, or goals frequently unmet, could indicate employee burnout or ineffective work processes.

Similarly, make individual and collective listening sessions a regular part of your leadership playbook so you can stay connected to your team’s actual experiences.

To illustrate, a 2023 Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence survey (via CNBC) found that 77% of executives believe employees’ well-being improved last year, a sentiment shared by just 33% of employees. This disparity is emblematic of the risks leaders face when they lose touch with their teams, and they may feel the long-term impact of diminished productivity and worsened morale that’s bad for people and business.

Stay connected and engaged by assessing the long-term impact of any solution and working to identify emerging problems that may impact productivity or morale.

Embracing A Data-Driven Approach

A data-driven approach to improving employee performance and morale is key.

Leaders should understand the status quo, implement measurable solutions to tackle specific problems and continually assess long-term impacts for ongoing improvements.

When implemented effectively, these measures can help leaders become more agile amid changing challenges, creating a closer connection between leadership and employees and fostering a work environment that promotes productivity, job satisfaction and overall employee well-being.

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