Organizations exploring ways to successfully navigate the postpandemic workplace should see “The Great Resignation” as a catalyst for change. New technologies, business models, and work arrangements are upending traditional people and talent management norms as people rethink their relationship with work. Advanced analytics and platforms like Microsoft Viva can help organizations take a data-driven, human-focused approach to delivering a positive employee experience.
The vaquita is the most endangered cetacean — whales, dolphins, and porpoises — with only around 10 individuals remaining. Living in the seacoasts, this shy, sensitive, and mysterious porpoise is particularly exposed to bycatch from unsustainable and illegal fishing as well as toxic substances from environmental pollution and poisonous blooms of cyanobacteria.
Scientists and conservationists are persevering to protect them, even going so far as isolating them. However, their efforts are stymied by limited knowledge on the vaquita’s behaviors and life history. Vaquitas will likely become extinct in our generation without the right sustainable interventions — drawn from on-the-ground, in-depth research and constantly updated data.
So how is the vaquita’s plight related to people management?
The pandemic didn’t only compel organizations to digitally transform. It shifted paradigms in people management that now appear threatened by novel technologies, new business models, and remote or hybrid work arrangements. Now relatively freer from the uncertainties, pent-up frustrations, and disruptions brought about by the pandemic, employees, too, are reconsidering their options as they live through the new normal.
The ‘Great Resignation’: Rethinking people’s relationship with work
Addressing the employee’s expectations, honing their talents, and rewarding their achievements are basic tasks that define the manager’s leadership. As technology continues to blur the boundaries of work, managers and leaders are straddling between their business’s needs and their people’s motivation to keep it running.
This balancing act — often done without guidance, training, and proper transition — can sometimes lead to superfluous, unnecessary caution and confusion that only further distress their workers.
Remote and hybrid work arrangements, for instance, are an apparently thorny issue among managers and their employees. In a recent survey, 40% of supervisors and managers said they weren’t confident in managing their employees remotely, while another 16% said they were unsure if they can at all. This is reflected by their perception of their employees’ performance and productivity: 60% said they are unsure or don’t feel that their remote workers are performing well compared with working in a physical office. Over half of all respondents were also doubtful that remote employees can remain motivated in the long term.
Distrust begets mistrust. In the same survey, the workers experienced increased micromanagement, with many of them feeling that they’re expected to be on call 24/7. The result: greater anxiety at work, disruptions at home, conflicts in their personal lives, and an overall low morale.
The anxiety — and the perceived uncertainty about a postpandemic workplace — aren’t only adversely affecting job satisfaction and relationships with coworkers. They’re also driving employees to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
And like the vaquita, we’re seeing significant employee departures brought by unsustainable management practices. The Great Resignation isn’t just a simple mass exodus of employees. It rethinks people’s relationship with work beyond compensation and emphasizes meaning, purpose, inclusion, and equality.
Workplace analytics: Using data to empower people
The Great Resignation also underscores the need for managers and leaders to understand why their people are leaving. This helps them recognize what they can do to alleviate their people’s anxieties.
A research- and data-driven approach to people and talent management enables managers to establish a workplace with measurable, bottom-line insights that can reinforce the workers’ ties to the company.
Today’s workstream collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom, for instance, hold tremendous amounts of data that can be used to understand engagement and communication patterns. For example, Toyota Motor North America capitalized on Teams for many of their workflows. Complemented by their unique corporate culture and other tools, it helped maintain interactions and sustain business continuity. Microsoft Viva Insights helped them embed work experience and employee wellness programs in Teams as its large number of workforce shifted to remote work.
Managers can also turn to workplace or people analytics tools to gauge their employees’ sentiments. Some companies, for instance, are eschewing traditional, work-focused technologies in favor of data-driven but employee-focused listening tools and recognition platforms. This enables leaders to know where great work is being done in the organization and by whom, giving them insights on how to further engage them or distribute tasks if they’re overworked.
A data-driven approach to people management also helps leaders uncover trends or blind spots within the organization. A trucking company, for instance, delved into the root causes of their people’s resignations, quantifying the problems, and drilling down into metrics like compensation, performance, career advancement, training opportunities, work functions, location, and demographics. This enabled them to create bespoke retention programs and revamp promotion policies that helped reduce resignations by 10% despite the fierce competition.
Microsoft Viva Insights: Delivering a data-driven employee experience
Viva Insights is part of the Microsoft Viva suite, an employee experience platform. Unilever, AB InBev, Lumen, Lite-On, and Rand Mutual Assurance are just some of the businesses that use it for their work and employee experience programs. It uses Microsoft 365 data to make recommendations on how people can use their time more effectively at work.
For employees, the personal Viva Insights can provide some actionable, privacy-minded recommendations, such as preparing for (and tracking) meetings and activities, maintaining work habits, and focusing on work-life balance.
For managers and leaders, Viva Insights can help find opportunities for improving the team’s productivity while instilling a healthy work culture:
Manager insights: This part of Viva Insights provide visibility into current work patterns or norms that might lead to burnout and stress. It also brings together information to help managers stay updated and quickly act on tasks or requests.
Leader insights: This provides an overview of how the organization is doing, including critical success factors and business outcomes across the company. There are features in Viva Insights that can help leaders actively respond to unforeseen changes or disruptions through behavior-based metrics and calculations.
Viva Insights is robust and feature-rich on its own, capable of integration with other add-ins, apps, software, and technologies. For many, however — including businesses that already use it — it’s just the beginning of the journey.
Viva Insights and advanced analytics: A people-focused harmony
People analytics brings together data, technology, and human-centered goals to bridge organizational and cultural gaps in the workplace. It’s no wonder that more than 70% of executives are actively investing in it to improve employee experience.
As with any data-driven projects, however, their synergy requires a strong data foundation. This means setting up the right architecture to process data, establishing standards for governance, and having the expertise to enable analytics capabilities.
Viva Insights is a great starting point for deriving data-driven insights to reshape the employee experience. Our workplace analytics practice, for example, builds on Viva Insights by augmenting it with advanced analytics. This gives managers and leaders fuller visibility into the workplace using enriched, multidimensional insights derived from various sources of data, such as Microsoft 365, HR systems, talent management systems, and employee engagement surveys.
For example, we customize Power BI-based Viva Insights reports and develop personalized dashboards using other data platforms to visualize relevant, purposeful benchmarks for improving employee experience. We also use AI and machine learning to process complex datasets, analyze key HR processes, and simulate scenarios drawn from Viva Insights and other data sources. These help managers and leaders anticipate and proactively respond to budding organizational issues that might affect the employee’s productivity and well-being down the line.
Indeed, employees are like the vaquita — losing them is detrimental. The Great Resignation also isn’t easing any time soon: 64% of employers expect that it will even accelerate or worsen. Without the data and insights that will inform managers what’s really going on, they will make the same effort and keep making decisions based on faulty, unfounded assumptions. Organizations can take this as an opportunity to use data and analytics to nurture a culture of empowerment and trust where people thrive in today’s new normal.