People Analytics in the Pandemic: “Organizations Need to Invest in Changes Now,” Says Sonali Sharma of EngageRocket

October 5, 20214:00 pm1037 views

Today, HR in Asia sits in a candid interview with Sonali Sharma, Vice President, Product and People Science at EngageRocket to gain an insight into the big role that people analytics is playing to create a future-proofing organization amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on…


  • Ms Sonali, with great data comes great responsibility. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

Answer: I completely agree with this statement, thanks for asking. 

There are three main reasons why access to data is a significant responsibility and should be treated so.

  1. Access: Organizations need to have policies and processes to ensure data is managed in a secure manner in compliance with local regulatory guidelines. There should be data access guidelines and secure infrastructure to ensure (especially personally identifiable information) is not misused; 
  2. Accuracy: Data analysis and insights should have a foundation of reliable and comprehensive documentation outlining assumptions, transformations, caveats, etc to prevent misrepresentation of data;
  3. Action: Data is the currency in the modern era and there is a value exchange implied. It is therefore critical to define, commit to and communicate the value and impact from data collection as ‘fair value’.
  • From your own experience, how has data analytics helped you measure the impact of COVID-19 on your workforce?

Answer: Data analytics has been an indispensable tool in understanding the state of employee experience in COVID-19. These insights are based on not just my experience within my team/organization but also insights gleaned through working with 100+ organizations on our platform in the last year.

  1. Impact of Remote and Hybrid work 
  2. Generational Diversity in Resilience, Productivity, and Well-being
  3. Manager capabilities and Leadership support required
  4. Opportunity and challenges of Digitisation
  • And what actions has your team taken to correspond to these data findings?

Answer: It’s easy to assume a single policy will work for everyone in the workforce, but people analytics helped us understand individual contexts and return to work preferences. We were able to design policies based on the impact of remote work on productivity and well-being.

People analytics also helped in personalizing communication and manager/leader support. The impact of COVID-19 has been harsher on the millennial workforce vs boomers and this insight has helped organizations respond appropriately across various employee experience drivers – Physical, Cultural, Digital and Work-related. The pandemic underscored the importance of manager support at work and also the importance of informal relationships. This allowed organizations to coach and empower managers and leaders with the tools needed to support their teams. 

  • In terms of preparing the future workforce in the post-pandemic era, in what way data can influence the making of well-informed decisions? 

Answer: Organizations need to invest in changes now, to build for the future of work in a sustainable and impactful way. People analytics will help inform policymakers with the insights they need to make decisions e.g L&D teams need to know which are the key skills needed in the workplace, Leaders need to understand the impact of the pandemic on their diverse workforce. Teams will be keen to understand the ‘high attrition risk’ population and impact on business performance and continuity etc.

  • How does employee experience matter now more than ever?

Answer: The impact of the pandemic has been uneven and everyone is presented with unique challenges at home and at work. It is also highly volatile in these difficult times. Employee experience and therefore an organization’s response to improving it needs to be personalized and agile.

  • Much has been said about how people analytics enhance employee retention and engagement. But is there any other powerful benefit of using analytics that many HR leaders might have overlooked? 

Answer: The distal impact of people analytics is overlooked by HR leaders and unknown to business leaders. There is a demonstrated impact of HR analytics on organizational productivity, workforce performance, business innovation, customer loyalty, and employer branding. 

Answer: My biggest advice to leaders making their first foray into people analytics is to – start with a relevant business problem that needs attention. Once a problem is identified, finding the business sponsor, collecting data, identifying a team/vendor, analysis and actionable insights will follow quite naturally.

About

Sonali Sharma is a business professional with 12+ years of experience with consulting firms, start-ups, and technology companies in the US, UAE, SE Asia, ANZ, and North Asia. She has worked with McKinsey & Company and Deloitte Consulting as a management consultant. In her most recent role at Uber, she set up and was leading the global Continuous Listening program as Sr Product Owner within People Analytics.

Prior to her global role, she was the leading People Analytics in APAC. She has been solving talent and business problems using cross-functional expertise in consulting, data science, and people development. She is passionate about driving technology adoption in HR through a combination of Product Design, Data Analytics, and Stakeholder Management.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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