The Future of HR Analytics? We’re Playing Nostradamus Again…

Unlike typical “thought leaders,” we don't just make predictions at the beginning of the year and walk away; we track them all year long to see if they actually come true. Last year we looked into our HR analytics “crystal ball.” As is evident by our tracking (see here, here, here and here), all the predictions came true. So, we decided to test our insights again this year mainly because it’s vital to monitor trends and we want to be sure you have the latest information for you to make informed business decisions. With any trend, there will be good and bad outcomes and some misinformation along the way. We’re kicking off this blog series with one of our favorite rant topics: pulse surveys.

2018 Prediction #1: Constant Surveying is Just a Fad

Last year we predicted that many organizations would struggle with balancing the desire for more data and harvesting the right data. One of the hot trends was “continuous listening,” where organizations were surveying more often. The idea sounds logical. We are able to survey em­ployees every week, every day, or even every hour. The pitch goes like this, “You should always be listening to your employees; the more the better.” The once- or twice-a-year survey event approach is dead … supposedly.

However, there are major flaws with this approach. Simply measuring more often is not a strategy. Data for data’s sake will cost time and money and likely not bring any true value. Sec­ond, have any employees asked to take more surveys? The answer is — probably not. Even our highest scoring-survey clients do not over-perform on the survey item: “The information from this survey will be used to make positive change.” So, if organizations can’t do great things with a once-a-year survey, the answer shouldn’t be — let’s do more surveys. It’s unfortunate but the marketing budgets of these new venture-capital funded “survey-all-the-time” companies are doing a grave disservice to their customers. If employees are indeed our customers in HR, we should be solving for their needs, balanced with the needs of the organization. Employees do want to provide feedback, but they are not clamoring to provide feedback more often. They simply want to be heard and have the organization/manager do something about it. So, imagine their frustration if they provide even more feedback through “continuous” surveys and still don’t see action from the manager/organization. Will this create even more frustration? Remember, your employees don’t exist just to provide you with data to play with.

One of our clients was set on conducting monthly random pulse surveys. We did our best to talk them out of it, but ultimately the client’s wants trumped our recommendations. So, we imple­mented monthly random pulse surveys. Of course, their response rates plummeted, and the value of the random pulse surveys greatly diminished. The conclusions that can be drawn from random pulse surveys are significantly limited by the data that is collected. Even with a proper sampling strategy with strong confidence intervals, most managers won’t get a specific report for their work unit, which limits his/her ability to take action. In this example, the client ultimately met the need of the organization to fill in a box on their monthly scorecard, but it greatly limited what the results told them and what they could do with the data. That client is moving back to a specific survey strategy with a census survey event accompanied by a few targeted pulse surveys with a directed objective (e.g., low performing leaders).

The prediction is simple. Continuous listening is a fad—especially if limited action is taken on the results. Companies that try this approach will quickly learn its shortcomings. The good news is that they will understand the importance of a measurement strategy with specific objectives for each measurement. The bad news is that for some this failed approach will further damage the credibility of HR and the survey process.

To hear all of our predictions, join our webinar on Thursday, January 25th at 2:00pm EST. Click here to register.