Toxic Work Environments and Data and Analytics: How Can These be Used to Motivate Employees?

Data and analytics are used for a great many things within an organization, but did you know they can now be used to try and identify toxic work environments?

In the past there was not such a focus on work environments that are toxic, and things that went on behind closed doors were often ignored. Businesses only cared about results, and nothing else. However, things have changed, and many companies now use employee data to discover social trends in the workplace. While these trends are often good, there can often be some negative trends, and by identifying them early enough they can be dealt with and nipped in the bud.

Visier uses employee data and analytics to identify potential problems in the workplace, and they are one of a growing band of companies that does this.  Their Chief Strategy Officer, Dave Weisbeck has spoken about how they use data and analytics to find toxic work environments, identify problems and deal with them accordingly. According to Weisbeck, companies often collect much more data than they need, especially during the hiring process and when you start your job. Information is often collected via your resume or CV, which is now online rather than on paper, and when you begin your job and training your information is also put into a database. At Visier that information is scanned to find answers to questions that shapes their business strategy, and thus inspires them to act and drives better business growth and results.

Often, the information they use depends on what kind of questions they want to answer. For example, when they want to look at the quality of those they are hiring they want to understand if they will stay, progress and perform with the company. Often this requires promotion, performance management and retention data which may be further augmented with surveys done by hiring managers or business measures of productivity. Visier’s approach is different – they don’t collect narrow elements of data but instead they look to take information from every system that holds data on their employees so no matter what question they are looking to answer there is one place to go to get an answer to it, and only one set of data to consult.

Analyzing data in this way can also show what makes a bad manager, and what can be done to rectify this. A good manager is responsible for getting the most and the best out of his or her employees, and while there is no specific data set that can say for sure whether someone is a bad manager or not, certain things can be analyzed such as performance reviews, promotion rates, resignation rates and overall employee engagement rates. Reviewing these trends can sometimes reveal signs that suggest a manager is not up to scratch, especially if there are trends that show those who report to the manager are often getting inadequate performance reports.

In many toxic work environments a focus on performance at all costs can be a great motivator for workforces, but also brings unexpected consequences. Too much pressure in the workplace can lead to unethical behaviours, especially amongst managers. According to a 2014 National Business Ethics Survey, 60% of workplace misconduct was undertaken by managers, while senior managers are more likely to exhibit unethical practices than lower-level managers. This culture of adverse behavior can impact seriously on employee morale. Most toxic work environments often result from a lack of leadership at the top and ultimately the health of work environments is often shaped by a group of core employees who are in positions of power.

So, is there a blueprint for a happy workforce and workplace? There is no one size fits all for this and many companies often try to force a happy workplace by focusing on things they can measure and compare relatively easily, such as momentary compensation and salaries. However, this is something that makes employees feel good about their jobs in the short term. To foster long term happiness in the workplace, organizations need to look at the actual work in more detail and focus on what motivates their employees.

Companies can help foster a happy workplace by ensuring their employees feel supported in their roles in the company and that their voice is heard. Data and analytics can go a long way to breaking down a toxic work environment, help organizations implement new ways of doing things and helping employees feel valued and respected.

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