For years, banks and insurers have made talent decisions based on judgment, common sense, and good faith regarding what is in the best interest of employees, leaders, and the company as a whole. But it has always been difficult to evaluate whether these decisions have been optimal, based on solid factual evidence.

The emerging field of analytics promises to change that. A newly available treasure trove of data presents an opportunity for organizations to create data-based insights to optimize workforce performance and determine which practices may have the most significant impact on the business.

This data comes from everywhere: cell phone GPS signals, posts to social media sites, employee e-mail and electronic communications, or employee information like learning records, employee promotion and transfer histories, or performance management data to name a few. This data can be mined to create fact-based insights and conclusions that could transform the way HR organizations work.

At the same time, new insights into brain science and human behavior are rapidly emerging. Scientists are developing break-through insights into everything from how we learn to what motivates us to how we regulate our emotions, revealing a fundamental mismatch between what science knows and what business often does.

Many of these insights—such as the finding that most people are not best motivated to perform by carrot and stick reward systems (e.g., rewards like bonuses and threats like being let go)—are far from common sense and at first glance may even seem counter-intuitive. Applied to the workforce, they have the potential to radically reshape the way we manage talent to optimize performance.

Never before has science had such potential to transform the way we manage our people to achieve business results. Advances in multiple fields—including mathematical modeling and analytics, neuroscience, the science of physical health and well-being, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and even engineering—have the potential to help organizations boost the performance of their people and organizations like they’ve never been able to before.

As analytics and scientific fields such as brain science advance, we are looking at a sea change as HR becomes ready to adopt a new model of managing people to suit a new era. Over the next decade, HR must arm itself with the tools and insights of a scientist to make decisions based on facts rather than faith to drive significantly better performance from their workforces and improved business outcomes.

In my next blog post in this series, I’ll look at how HR analytics and scientific principles can be put to work in the HR organization.

Learn more here: Talent management meets the science of human behavior

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