Five questions with Sarah Andresen, Head of People Science at Sage: “Only 1 in 3 of your employees are fully engaged and giving their all”

On May 17th, Datel and Sage will host Sage Synergy - an event dedicated to exploring how UK businesses can bring their people and processes together to improve productivity. Ahead of the event, Sage’s Head of People Science, Sarah Andresen, answers five questions about the role of people data in businesses – and the actionable insights it can bring.

1) Could you possibly provide a brief overview of what ‘People Science’ is?

People science is the concept of applying data science to an organization’s HR and people data.

People Science means applying data-driven approaches to improve workforce visibility—and how you both manage and engage your workforce. It’s about understanding people and their behaviour in your company and generating more actionable insights to help you make better business decisions about your workforce.

People Science is more than just people analytics. In practice, it means not just mining data and reporting it—but analysing it and gaining actionable insights to test hypotheses and identify solutions.

2) Why does people strategy matter? And why is it important for businesses to align this with their business strategy?

Your people are your company’s biggest asset for growth, and can give your business a competitive edge, helping the organization grow its bottom line.

It’s why revenue, revenue-per-employee and profit-per-employee are all higher in companies that focus on their employees, compared to companies that don’t invest in them.

So why shouldn’t companies manage their people as well as they manage their money? Engaged and competent employees are the foundations for a strong business, so developing an effective people strategy aligned to your businesses objectives will not only keep your business in the black but it will boost your bottom line.

3) Why is data-driven decision making so important for businesses in regards to HR?

Data-driven people decisions drive business outcomes. Recent research by Bersin by Deloitte shows that people analytics and the use of employee data to help optimize business and management decisions is strongly related to improved talent outcomes and an organization’s profitability.

In fact, high-maturity organizations, or those using people analytics in a sophisticated and insightful way, report 82 percent higher three-year average profit than their low-maturity counterparts.

4) How has the evolution of technology influenced HR management?

As technology has changed and evolved, new business models have emerged and companies have responded by changing the way they manage their workforce. In the 1960s, the mainframe was dominant, with personnel and payroll applications being the way we managed our employees.

By the 1980s, PC and client-server computing was the norm, and HR applications appeared. These became HCM applications, which included performance management and talent management applications.

Now, we have the move to the cloud, with social and mobile technologies becoming pervasive. HR applications are evolving further, and new HR and people applications have arrived as the world of HR is transformed from being focused on transactions to engaging their people. This is necessary to improve company’s abilities to attract, recruit, manage, develop and retain top talent in a world where key skills are in short supply.

Ultimately, we’re seeing a seismic shift in the sector as HR changes. Just as it shifted from Personnel in the 80’s, it’s now transforming into a People function.

Progressive people-centric companies are realizing that if they want to attract the best, they must change how they think about HR and their people. As a result, they’re moving towards automating a lot of the traditional ways of working to focus on their people and designing great workforce experiences for them. This is where technology has a huge role to play.

5) How do effective people processes benefit both employers and employees?

When HR and people leaders design better ways of working and create better workforce experiences, they improve engagement and drive performance. Only 1 in 3 of your employees are fully engaged and giving their all. That means most of your business is running sub-optimally. People are not fully engaged, motivated and performing at their best.

This has been an ongoing problem for years, with productivity growth trending flat. Satisfaction and engagement surveys have done little to solve this problem, and forward-thinking companies now understand why - because the level of engagement is a behavioral response to how people think and feel about work and working.

To increase engagement, you need to create continually great experiences throughout the employee life cycle or employment journey - just like marketing is focused on creating great customer experiences throughout the customer journey.

Great experiences make people respond more positively than poorer experiences. It is now understood that delivering great experiences increases engagement, which drives individual and company performance.

That’s one of the reasons why we set up Sage People, part of Sage Business Cloud. There isn’t one single answer to fix the productivity problem, but we know that if companies engage their people better by creating great employee experiences, more people will love going to work. This ultimately makes a workforce happier and makes good business sense too. It boosts a company’s growth and, in turn, adds to workplace productivity and national economic growth more widely.