How to Improve Engagement through Talent Analytics

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Talent analytics tools are changing leadership practices. Tasks that were once relegated to gut feelings and intuition have been infused with a new supplement of data that is proving to be priceless.

Here's the problem: talent analytics tools are still a relatively new development, and a large number of leaders aren't using them to their full potential.

According to research by Bersin and Associates, "Only 6% of organizations rate their data analytics skills highly. Yet 'Big Data' drives critical business decisions."

Although these new tools are being adopted at a growing rate, their application isn't always (or often) sophisticated, and as a result, they're not being used to their full potential. Just like any other powerful tool, the impact of talent analytics is dependent on the application.

Talent analytics isn't exclusive to enterprise or tech firms; any business can benefit from them.

There's no lack of consensus that analytics are a crucial tool for modern business. In their Deloitte University Press article, "Talent analytics in practice: Go from talking to delivering on big data," Josh Bersin, John Houston, and Boy Kester explain:

Companies that successfully leverage analytics and big data will be positioned to outperform their peers in executing their talent strategies.
-Josh Bersin, et al.

Here are some easy ways you can use talent analytics to improve your understanding of the people you work with, and inspire greater levels of engagement in your organization:

Capitalizing on performance insights

It's hard to even calculate the value you gain from better understanding employee performance on both a granular, and wholistic level. Talent analytics can provide that data. The key to success is how you use that data to inform your decisions as a leader.

In her Forbes article, "Talent Analytics: A Crystal Ball for Your Workforce?" Meghan Biro points out how valuable this knowledge can be in informing your hiring decisions:

By analyzing the skills and attributes of high performers in the present, it enables organizations to build a template for future hires.
-Meghan Biro

I'd even take it a step further, and say that you can expand the use of that "new hire template" to provide present staff with a valuable "high performer" template to emulate.

An employee's greatest anxiety is often the question of what it takes to succeed in an organization—and most do want to succeed. By providing this template you're giving everyone the opportunity to eliminate that anxiety, and that's worth its weight in gold.

Understanding individual contributions

Are you fully aware of the contributions each member of your team is making? That may not even be true if you're operating in a team of five. In any great organization, each member is making countless valuable contributions on a daily basis—as a member of that organization, it's often difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of those contributions yourself.

While you may not have personally witnessed a valuable employee contribution, someone likely did.

If you have a system in place to track and quantify those contributions, it's much easier to grasp the impact of your colleagues' myriad contributions.

How do you use this information to improve employee engagement? Recognition has shown time and time again to have a positive impact on employee engagement. Using talent analytics data to better recognize your colleagues' contributions is a valuable step toward improvement.

Gauging and improving cultural alignment

You may have a list of core values that your company supposedly upholds, but ask yourself honestly: do you know how aligned are you and your team to those values?

Core values are meaningless without alignment; without that, they're just a bullet list on your "About Us" page.

When the entire team truly shares and believes in a common goal, engagement naturally skyrockets.

Kevin Kruse provides a clear and concise definition of employee engagement that is particularly useful in this context.

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.
-Kevin Kruse

So how do you use talent analytics to gauge improve cultural alignment? Here's a real-life example: Bonusly Analytics provides data on which core values your team upholds in their day-to-day work.

You may find that some core values, while they sounded good on paper, weren't actually a fit for your organization. This is crucial information to have, as it can help you to determine what your core values actually are, and how to work as a team to follow them.

Benchmarking your programs and policies

This may be one of the most important assets that talent analytics brings to the table. Measuring the effectiveness and performance of your programs and policies is just as important as measuring the performance of the employees they impact.

Nearly every policy in an organization is enacted with good intentions, but good intentions don't always produce good results. There could be one or several policies that are holding your team back or damaging employee engagement. The only way to know for sure is to measure them.

In their seminal Harvard Business Review article, "Competing on Talent Analytics," Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne Harris, and Jeremy Shapiro categorize this type of analysis under what they call the Talent Value Model:

The talent value model addresses questions like 'Why do employees choose to stay with our company?' A company can use analytics to calculate what employees value most and then create a model that will boost retention rates.
-Thomas H. Davenport, et al.

There are a number of tools you can use to take those measurements, and most importantly, make sense of them. Survey tools like Culture Amp are a great way to gather information anonymously and painlessly, then compile it into an actionable format.

Putting it all together

Combining and cross-referencing the results of active data gathering tools (surveys, for example) with passively-gathered data can provide some priceless insights into your team. Those insights can be instrumental in the development of successful employee engagement initiatives, and a stronger team.

As HR tech tools continue to evolve and mature, those data points will be easier and easier to integrate into an increasingly broad and complete picture of your organization, but you don't have to wait to realize the benefits.

You can start now with these first steps, and gain the experience with talent analytics that you'll need to stay ahead of the competition—and perhaps more importantly—start each day a step ahead of the last.

When you're ready to take the next step toward building a stronger organizational culture, check out our latest guide:

Read the Guide to Modern Employee Recognition

Originally published on October 14, 2015 → Last updated July 11, 2019
George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards program that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨