Most companies will use data to track their organization’s performance. Whether through key performance indicators (KPIs), customer acquisition metrics or marketing leads, there are myriad ways to determine whether your business is on track. But when it comes to your employees, it can be harder to objectively gather and analyze data on performance. Here is some advice on how to go beyond performance reviews and subjective observations to drive, track and measure employee performance using data.

1. Optimize Onboarding

The onboarding process is your first opportunity to set a performance baseline for a new employee. This can be used to benchmark and measure their performance as they progress.

The best way to set this baseline is to build low-stakes testing into your onboarding process, so you can gauge employees’ understanding and work out where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Make it clear that the outcome of the test isn’t going to put their job at risk but will be used to inform their professional development going forward. Using a digital training platform for onboarding can help take the legwork out of this data gathering mission by automating the process and generating a performance report for you and your employee to refer to.

2. Set Measurable Goals and Hold Employees Accountable 

It likely won’t be news to you that when setting goals with employees, they need to be measurable, actionable and time bound. But this is easier said than done: Too often, broad — or poorly defined — goals are left by the wayside and progress is stalled.

To set better goals and supercharge performance, use the data that you must set clear and defined objectives with your employee. Always attach a timeframe, action plan, desired outcome and success metric to help them get there. For example, a marketing team member could be given the target of winning 10 marketing qualified leads (MQLs) per week with a fixed social media ad budget and spend plan.

Ensure individual, team and company goals can be accessed by the entire company on a shared drive, so that everyone can see each other’s goals and support each other to reach them. Making goals public isn’t about testing people or highlighting their weaknesses. It’s about encouraging teams to share knowledge, support each another and hold each other accountable, so that everyone is motivated to achieve what they set out to do.

3. Measure Soft Skills Objectively 

Soft skills are becoming increasingly valuable in the workplace. Research shows that soft skills training delivers a 250% return on investment (ROI) based on higher productivity and retention. But to get the most out of soft skills training, you need to be able to measure performance for skills — like communication and resilience — objectively.

Typically, soft skills training will take place in person, with actors or colleagues role-playing different scenarios. But this doesn’t tend to generate performance data that’s objective or quantifiable — and it isn’t particularly scalable.

Instead, you could use a digital training platform to deliver interactive soft skills training online or in virtual reality (VR). Not only is digital and immersive training more scalable (and therefore more cost effective) than in-person training, but some tech platforms are also able to generate detailed and objective feedback reports on everyone’s performance, even for soft skills that are typically tough to measure. Turning subjective soft skills into objective data points is a far more useful way of tracking performance. It will make it easier for you and your employees to understand where they need to improve and how they can do it.

4. Use Data to Deliver Better Feedback

About 28% of employees are dissatisfied with the frequency of the feedback they receive from their manager. But negative feedback, delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance. Unfortunately, lots of managers find it difficult to deliver constructive feedback. But data can make it easier.

By regularly measuring and tracking employee performance against agreed KPIs using digital training tools, you’ll have a wealth of objective data to refer to that helps take the sting out of feedback conversations. If an employee who works in sales completes a VR simulation where they’re expected to handle a difficult customer — and the report that you receive at the end reveals they made several errors — you can refer to the objective data in your meeting and discuss constructive ways that they can improve without it feeling like a personal attack. You can also give that employee repeated access to that training simulation, so they can practice the scenario as often as necessary until the data points show a significant improvement.

Using technology and objective data, giving difficult feedback can become a constructive experience for both parties, with a direct positive impact on performance.

5. Gather Feedback 

One of the easiest ways to use data to change performance outcomes is to survey your workforce regularly. It sounds simple, but too many companies don’t do this. Following a training session, big meeting or strategy discussion, use a smart feedback platform to survey employees and find out what went well, what could be improved and what they would like to see next time. This simple data-gathering process will give you valuable insights that you can use to optimize your operations and supercharge performance.

The best way to supercharge your team’s performance is by leveraging the tech tools and data insights at your disposal.