By Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., Senior Principal, Employee Experience, Qualtrics & Steve Bennetts, Principal Consultant, Employee Experience, Qualtrics
The experience economy is changing the way businesses compete — yet many executives don’t know how to navigate this environment.
With the rise of Experience Management (XM), businesses are acknowledging that they need experience data (or X-data) and operational data (or O-data) in order to sustain competitive advantages.
X-data involves the continuous collection of emotions, attitudes, and intentions of customers, employees, and other stakeholders. Simply put, O-data tells us what’s happening and X-data tells us why it’s happening.
X-and O-data uses in HR
Here is a simple example of X- and O-data in HR.
O-data (based on HRIS data): List of your top sales people
X-data (based on employee feedback): If they are unhappy or about to quit; How to retain them
In this example, it’s clear that the O-data is not very actionable without the supporting X-data (the “why”).
The problem is that most organizations and HR departments collect and manage X- and O-data differently, which prevents organizations from creating lasting business impacts.
O-data systems today are relatively mature. They track employee behaviors and performance. A call center, for example, can log numerous operational data points from a single customer call– the length of the call, the number of systems/pages the representative used, the amount of time the representative spent on each page, etc.
Importantly, these O-data systems collect information in real-time and (normally) without disrupting the natural flow of an employee’s work. Data collection is seamless and built into the work systems or processes.
This is a far cry from how X-data is normally collected. Example: many organizations still rely solely on one source of employee feedback — the annual “engagement” survey.
While this remains an impactful source of employee X-data, it is highly inefficient when used in isolation. For example:
- Instead of collecting data in real-time, organizations may take weeks and months to field a seemingly simple survey.
- Instead of collecting feedback from employees where they are, traditional approaches require employees to leave the natural flow of their work.
- Instead of receiving X-data insights in real-time, traditional approaches deliver data to managers in multi-page reports filled with numbers and charts months after the survey is complete.
Leaders and managers would never tolerate O-data being measured in this way (and neither would employees for that matter).
Given the dramatic impact that these X-data insights can have on employee and business performance, it begs the question — why should this be the case for X-data?
The answer is; it shouldn’t! X-data systems are anachronisms in most organizations, which for HR, means getting outdated and irrelevant employee feedback. In turn, that negatively impacts employee engagement.
3 Principles of a Modern HR X-Data System
The good news is this isn’t how it has to be! Modern X-data systems do exist, and not surprisingly, the organizations that employ them consistently drive better employee, customer, and business outcomes.
So what do these modern HR systems that utilize X-data look like?
Modern X-data systems are built around the employee journey. While this may seem obvious, most traditional surveys are focused on topics and happen at times that are relevant to the organization rather than to the employees!
In practice, this means that most X-data measurement should happen during (or just after) important experiences in the employee’s journey, including universal milestones like on-boarding and role change, and even more personalized or “micro-moments.”
It also means that employees must have avenues to provide feedback whenever they want/need. We refer to this as “always on” feedback, which you might think of this as your modern day suggestion box.
2. Embedded into the employee’s work environment
Employees are also consumers. And as consumers we have vastly different experiences with technology. We are accustomed to providing quick feedback on everyday interactions, such as rating our Uber or Lyft rides or providing feedback on the pizza we just picked up in the same app that we ordered it from.
Just like these examples above, modern X-data systems are embedded into the tools that employees are already using to do their work. For example, the company intranet, the HR Information System, Point-of-Sale devices, and internally developed applications.
3. Directly actionable
When organizations ask employees for feedback, they must be prepared to act on that feedback. For many organizational leaders, the notion of opening up multiple feedback channels to employees sounds daunting at first.
This requires a mindset shift within the organization and a reframing of what “action” is. Here are a few best practices:
- Ask employees only what you are willing and able to act on
- Make measurements short and sweet, taking less than a couple of minutes to complete (the days of the 60 item survey with radio buttons are over…or at least, they should be!)
- Create closed-loop workflows that send sensitive or concerning feedback to the appropriate group (e.g., comments that mention harassment to the Employee Relations team)
- Use conversational language in your surveys to make them easily understandable and natural
- Redefine what “action planning” means; instead of dense reports of numbers and charts, share suggestions for action instead
- Embed X-data insights into the same tools and systems that leaders use to make normal day-to-day decisions
These principles, enabled by modern technology, create X-data systems that operate just like O-data systems. They are seamless, built into employees’ work processes, and the measurement instruments themselves are consumer-grade.
Most importantly, a modern X-data system could be the difference between an organization intentionally racing to the top or unintentionally racing to the bottom.
Curious about how to offer the best employee experience possible? Learn more here.