In April 2020, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella observed the coronavirus pandemic’s accelerating effect on business, saying, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Fast forward a year, and two fields are picking up similar speed to reshape HR and the future of work: employee engagement and people analytics.

That’s the key takeaway from an on-demand webinar, “How People Analytics Can Help HR Navigate Through the Changing World of Work with David Green, director of Insight222, and Glint’s Ritu Mohanka. Each shared compelling ideas to help organizations capitalize on emerging HR technology and trends—including three top insights outlined below.

How people analytics and employee engagement work together

First off, how about a refresher on the two complementary fields? 

Employee engagement is the science of happiness and success at work. Engaged employees support financial performance, productivity, and retention. 

People analytics is broader—helping organizations leverage insights from all kinds of employee data to drive business outcomes, increase performance, and improve employee experience and well-being.

Both fields have become increasingly critical at a time when employee well-being has emerged as a top priority. As Glint’s 2021 People Success Predictions pointed out, “Promoting and protecting people’s well-being is mission critical—whether addressing employee health and safety, helping people cope with prolonged stress, or supporting those with colliding work and personal lives.” 

With so much riding on HR leaders’ guidance, what are the most important things to know about how employee engagement and people analytics are driving transformation? Here are David and Ritu’s thoughts:

1. Data and insights have a new seat at the table

Whether CEOs are confronting shut-downs and reopenings or grappling with collapsing and exploding markets, the pandemic has turned executives’ chairs into seats on a roller-coaster. And who’s riding alongside them? People analytics pros “have never been busier or more in the spotlight,” David said. “Many are meeting each week with their CEOs.” 

It’s a sentiment echoed throughout the industry. “The people analytics age is here to stay,” wrote Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Ian Bailie in the Harvard Business Review. “In a world of work that is increasingly virtual (and perhaps even only virtual), the volume of data available to understand and predict employees’ behaviors will continue to grow exponentially, enabling more opportunities for managing through tech and data.

Even before the pandemic, LinkedIn’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Report shared that 73% of HR pros said people analytics will be a major priority for their company over the next five years. More recently, emerging technologies and tools, such as the integration of Glint with Microsoft Viva, are showing a path to more widespread adoption. 

2. Data and insights are increasingly agile

At the start of the pandemic, speed was of the essence. HR leaders armed with data and insights helped organizations quickly respond to needs for employee wellness and business continuity. David pointed to examples of organizations delivering food to employees who were experiencing food insecurity, and redeploying employees whose face-to-face interactions with customers disappeared overnight.

Now, as organizations figure out the “new normal,” agility remains crucial. Many organizations are deploying more frequent employee engagement surveys to get a sense for whether people are feeling connected and productive. 

Does this cause survey fatigue? Not if done right. Shorter surveys, referred to as “pulses,” are a best practice and provide assurance to employees that their organizations care how they’re doing.

3. Data and insights are key to reimagining employee experience

The current world of work is a place with far more questions than answers. Will the work-from-anywhere movement become mainstream? How will this affect industries that rely exclusively on onsite teams or a combination of onsite and remote workers? How will leaders foster high-quality connection and collaboration in an increasingly dispersed world?

“As HR leaders begin looking to the future, they are increasingly asking how their organizations want to be different in this new world and what changes should be kept for the long run,” Ritu said. 

In essence, many organizations are redefining their employee experience—using design thinking to understand and improve every aspect of an employee’s work life. Employee sentiment data— how employees feel—is converging with collaboration data—how employees work—to provide a fuller picture of what employees are experiencing.

For instance, employees are saying that they want to feel more connected. Yet organizations are seeing that the cross-functional collaboration that happened in physical office space is waning as employees work remotely, and that can endanger an organization’s ability to solve problems. 

“Innovation and creativity are at risk,” David underscored. “That’s why many organizations are trying to engineer those connections.” 

Final thoughts: organizations succeed when people succeed

Keeping employees engaged is essential in light of how the ongoing pandemic is taking its toll. According to Glint data, employee burnout has risen as the pandemic persists, and it’s having different effects on women and men. 

Such insights position HR leaders to continually evolve their organization’s strategies to best support their people’s success. Using both employee engagement and people analytics data allows leaders to make decisions based on evidence and track progress toward goals—critical factors to thrive in a fast-changing world. 

Want a deeper dive into these ideas? Watch the full one-hour webinar.