It’s easy to lose sight of the reality that companies and the human beings who work for them are interconnected. Even when organizations actively emphasize the importance of the employee experience, they often lack the requisite insights and framework to encourage and support great performance. To improve training and performance, the modern workplace needs to hone in on the critical connection between employees and their operating environments — which starts with data.

Data changes the conversation about performance in the workplace. In fact, data is foundational to resurfacing the importance of workplace training and evaluating whether such training is effective. Adding data to this conversation sounds simple enough, but finding the right data and tying it to an organization’s unified priorities requires a focused strategy, which is why it must start in the C-suite.

Organizational leaders must identify and articulate essential corporate goals. From that foundation, they can empower individual employees with the freedom to define their own success and identify those objectives and key results (OKRs) that drive strategic key performance indicator (KPI) achievement. There are three steps that underpin the use of data to improve workplace performance: Find the right tools; hone in on productivity management; and, finally, manage OKRs.

Find the Right Tools

Every workplace has employees who are indisputably capable and invaluable but for whom there isn’t data to quantify their value to the organization. Companies need to provide the framework for superstar employees to showcase how they are advancing strategic priorities and progressing as individuals, as experts in their field, and as managers and leaders of high-performing teams.

This challenge is ongoing but rarely addressed through self-evaluation forms at annual or biannual reviews or through other periodic evaluation methods. Furthermore, in the absence of tools that enable measurement of their own contributions, these employees often default to operating without a sense of significance, progress, autonomy and overall purpose.

Beyond the individual level, teams or departments that cannot quantify and connect their value to the enterprise’s bottom line can face barriers to reallocating or growing the budget and resources of high-performing teams. Companies need to be aligned on strategy throughout all levels of the organization to bridge the gap between performing and acknowledging said performance. To do so, companies should look for platforms that integrate with existing data, communication or reporting tools to automatically update progress toward goals in real time.

Hone in on Productivity Management

Though it’s up to C-suite leaders to set the strategy for these platforms, it’s incumbent upon human resources (HR) to actively manage implementation: measuring progress and ensuring it leads to productivity. One of HR’s core roles is productivity management. The department should drive the connection between the product brand and the employer brand to show how each project is building toward an end goal, all while building a clear sense of attraction for the most talented people on the planet.

HR exists to shape cultures and enforce organizational mission in order to inspire teams in creating exponential outcomes. The department should be equipped to ensure every individual feels connected, trained, prepared, and deeply engaged in the vision and core values set out by the executive leaders. Without data, this is impossible.

Fortunately, digital transformation is changing the game. A host of digital tools are now available that empower workforces to collaborate cross-functionally in ways that were never an option before. The HR and productivity technology markets go beyond intuitive user experience and user interface (UX/UI), data dashboards, process improvement, and insight creation. They are now implementing innovations like machine learning and artificial intelligence to craft meta-data across all business intelligence tools. This type of data provides insights into patterns and connections that businesses wouldn’t otherwise know, potentially offering a tangible outlook on productivity throughout their organizations so that they can change it if necessary.

Manage Objectives and Key Results

The OKR methodology is a foundational collaborative framework for reaching goals as an organization. Setting objectives, mapping key results to each one, and then tracking status and — hopefully — completion is an essential practice in achieving goals. The challenge, of course, is finding a way to manage this process in a scaling organization with many moving parts.

Businesses need to align employees through a common set of objectives and then use data to provide a centralized, transparent curation for all of an organization’s core OKRs. Collecting and using this data well requires a tool that enables organizations to map progress against quarter-on-quarter OKRs. This type of tool:

  • Promotes collaboration across functions, geographies and roles.
  • Shares progress, accountability and group focus. Group focus is an essential accountability measure and morale booster in which anyone, anywhere can see his or her work as a contribution toward top-level objectives.
  • Enables key people to see what’s working and what’s not in order to provide insight into the areas that need celebrating and the ones that need fixing.

Ideally, this process delivers an “Aha!” moment for organizations looking to improve workplace performance. Mapping individuals to their goals within the context of the organization’s overall purpose benefits all parties.

Using data to inform performance (and performance to inform data) illuminates the human issues underpinning organizational problems. It empowers an organization to change and continuously improve and its employees to become positive advocates, continuous learners, productive team members, brilliant contributors and enthusiastic champions of the company’s cause.