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Smarter, Faster, Stronger: How Distributed Workforce Analytics Software Improves Business KPIs
Workforce analytics software has come a long way in a short time. Whether making training more fun or providing more in-depth analytics, platforms have come a long way. This isn’t pre-pandemic software; digital transformation has accelerated. Expectations have changed as well.
Just check out this list of ‘top 10 HR analytics tools in 2018’ – only five years ago, but lightyears away in the age of the digital transformation. These were tools positioned for HR departments only, that were meant for the tracking and management of employee data, and that were fundamentally reactive. The technological standard has since changed.
Now, workforce analytics tools do not only measure and track data passively – they improve business KPIs. They are not only for HR departments. They’re for the entire corporate structure, and for the workforce to boot. These consolidated systems affect the whole enterprise. They strengthen the whole structure, digitally transforming the business itself. All this is necessary in our age of digital technology “arms race,” where you want to be enabled with the best tech. In this article, we’ll discuss how workforce analytics software has transformed, and what business leaders can expect today.
What Is Workforce Analytics Software?
For the perplexed, we’ll have to define our terms first. Workforce analytics software generally refers to tools that help you track and manage workforce metrics – the performance and productivity output for workers and teams. Workforce analytics software analyzes “people data” or “workforce data” like retention rate and time to sale, helping corporate teams draw conclusions based on these.
The question is how such software can today be used to improve core KPIs, like revenue growth and profit margin. It’s not just about measuring but improving. It’s about tech that implements the strategies that it suggests through data analytics. The point here is that you’re not simply measuring results but influencing those results. You’re implementing the conclusions your data helps you reach.
Workforce Analytics for the Distributed Workforce
These days, the workforce is transforming. By 2027, over half of the US workforce, it is estimated, will participate in the gig economy, which has a strong growth outlook overall. The pandemic helped kick this off, of course. When work went remote and many got laid off, they turned to work that they could control. Work that was autonomous and self-guided. They turned to the gig economy. And they’re continuing to participate in that economy. For some, it’s about time-flexibility and independence. For others, they simply enjoy the work.
Also, the great resignation has changed the workplace, says CNBC. The workforce, leading more people into piecework and voluntary labor. “Quiet quitting” is another symptom of this. The workforce composition is changing, and so workforce analytics software has changed.
Today’s workforce analytics software is about more than just tracking and managing data; it is about giving the workforce the tools they need to succeed on their own terms, in their own way. For today’s workforce, the workforce analytics and people analytics tools of 2018 and 2019 – including legacy platforms – just wouldn’t work out very well.
These platforms were built with a far more linear work process in mind. HR departments and corporate teams helped manage employee performance; such performance was tracked by workforce analytics software to make such management easier to do. But with the rise of the distributed workforce, as exemplified by the gig economy, it’s not clear that such software would be prepared for the future. Today’s workforce analytics isn’t about managing a workforce from the top down, but enabling them from the bottom up. It’s about learning as much as it is about organic upskilling, incentives and recognition and opportunity management.
Bottom line, business as usual won’t work. The software of yesterday can’t service the more complex workforce of tomorrow. So what should you look for?
The Future of Work: the Distributed Workforce and Workforce Analytics
If today’s forecasts are correct, then the workforce of tomorrow will look more like, well, the workforce of today than the one from ten or even two years ago. Dispersed, distributed, deskless, gig-based – a fundamental transformation in what is needed to drive performance through analytics. This isn’t just for companies like Uber and Seamless, by the way: the consultancy McKinsey describes an “on-demand revolution in customer-experience operations,” changing the very role of customer care agent. Many industries will be affected by these changes in the workforce, if not all.
Take direct selling as an example. Direct selling is one of the oldest and most storied industries in American and even global history, tracing its roots to the traveling tradesmen of the medieval world. Direct selling – sometimes called direct sales – involves distributors who procure, market, and sell a company’s products or services directly to individual customers. It is arguable that the workforce of the future will look more like direct selling and less like the office employees of yesteryear: folks who work on an ad hoc basis, determined by them and their goals, and who function as contractors for companies.
Retail is another example. Retail is a huge industry, and we expect it to get more gig-based as time goes on, with the frontline being employed as independent contractors and working flexibly. Imagine a future where the retail frontline, not pledged to any one store, uses a platform to sign up for shifts, and then uses technology to quickly train for a specific retailer. This will cut costs for retailers as well as improving flexibility and independence for the workforce.
Thinking Anew About Workforce Analytics Software
The workforce analytics software that reigned supreme even three or four years ago wouldn’t be very useful for measuring, or indeed stimulating, performance in such a workforce. Such software was meant to track employees’ performance on the job, day to day, with fixed hours; it wouldn’t apply to the workforce that will probably dominate in the future. Further, gig workers can’t be managed in a traditional way. They don’t have bosses or managers as we typically think of them. They’re self guided and autonomous. But their performance still has to be managed and enabled. How do you do this? It sounds difficult…
To truly meet the moment, workforce analytics and people analytics software has to change – and by some accounts, it already has. Instead of measuring performance passively, such software should actively guide the workforce toward success; such software should help workers become their own managers and analyze their own performance, in addition to providing corporate teams tools to do so.
Increasingly, the gigified workforce will need to be their own managers, and automated, personalized workforce analytics software can help them do that. The question is what software companies are using. If the software’s tools are siloed off, not talking to each other, that’s bad. It means your data is going to waste. Yet if the tools are all integrated and connected, the experience gets personalized. Each action the individual takes multiplies in effectiveness. That’s because it gets tracked and “read” by the software to determine future recommendations.
This is all part of a paradigm we call performance enablement.
Performance Enablement for Workforce Analytics: Toward a New Workforce
Previously, we’ve covered the difference between performance enablement and performance management. There’s some overlap here. We’re talking about the evolution of a new paradigm out of an old one – workforce analytics software that helps the workforce succeed on their own terms, rather than simply tracking their metrics. That’s a bit like the difference between enablement and management.
But it’s important to remember that workforce analytics software is generally used by corporate headquarters to guide decision-making and achieve better results.
This is where the improvement of business KPIs – such as profit margins – enters the picture. Platforms like Rallyware effectively enable performance for the workforce, increasing performance-based KPIs, while using performance data to fuel corporate decision making. Without doing too deep a dive, we can underline that generally speaking, feeding performance data right into Rallyware’s dashboards and visualized analytics will help guide corporate decision-making in an organic way.
Where past technology might have helped corporate headquarters react to worker performance after the fact, truly modern platforms can do better. Performance enablement and workforce analytics are happening in the same platform, with funnels of live data from other integrated systems.
This means that corporate leaders are able to improve worker performance using customized learning and development and incentives and recognition programs, themselves based on past data. There are no more silos. Corporate HQ is using performance data to improve KPIs directly, and they’re doing so by building a better workforce through technology, rather than through traditional management structures and methodologies. It’s all happening through digital transformation – both workforce analytics and performance enablement – and in Rallyware’s case, all via the same unified, highly integrated platform.
The workforce analytics software of tomorrow will be structured in a more organic, bottom-up way – because that’s the way the workforce is changing. And because such technology is more responsive to what the distributed workforce actually needs to succeed, it will help drive corporate KPIs, to the extent these KPIs are affected by workforce performance. Workforce analytics software built for the problems of yesterday cannot help today, let alone in the future. New ways of thinking are necessary.
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