How do you really figure out what’s happening in an organisation, how people feel about their employer, and how workplace dynamics are actually playing out? Tools like Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) and machine learning are giving leaders an unprecedented insight into their businesses, helping them to reshape their companies for maximum productivity and happiness.  

Under the skin of an organisation

Culture is crucial. In a competitive marketplace, it can provide a critical advantage, helping to attract and retain the very best employees and impacting organisational performance.

Historically, however, organisational culture has been very difficult to understand and assess. Organisations have had to rely on paper-based surveys, which capture limited information and quickly become outdated. Now, new technology is revolutionising the way that employers assess attitudes, monitor employee engagement, and gauge workplace culture. Culture Workbench from Temporall collects real-time data, uses rich data analytics and machine learning to interpret it, and then helps leaders make evidence-based changes to their workplace.

ONA is central to this technology. ONA analyses the relationships and patterns between people and the impact that individuals have on an organisation. According to Professor Rob Cross, a social network analysis expert, ONA “can provide an x-ray into the inner workings of an organization”. This technology is “a powerful means of making invisible patterns of information flow and collaboration in strategically important groups visible” (‘What is ONA?’).

This means that ONA can unveil things about an organisation that were previously almost impossible for leaders to see. ONA can be combined with quantitative, qualitative and sentiment analysis to build a rich, complex picture of the people dynamics in a workplace.

This is the true ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of an organisation’s culture. Culture is constantly moving and shifting, and it can’t be captured in a static org chart or conveyed on a feedback questionnaire. Using these new tools, leaders can discover which employees are central to the company running smoothly, find out which company initiatives are having the most impact, and get the information they need to successfully implement digital transformations.

This happens through real-time data capture, data interpretation, and then action based on these findings. We’ll run through each of these steps in a little more detail.

  1. Continuous data collection

 Workplaces are awash with data, and data analytics is already a growing practice in HR. By collecting data about payroll, absence and operations performance, HR teams gain a certain amount of useful insight. But there’s far more to be gained from gathering more complex data about the many facets of company culture.

If you want to find out about a workplace, it makes sense to meet users where they already work and are most productive. Daily conversations can pop up while people are working, getting rid of the need for surveys. Data can be captured from teams using enterprise systems that are already in place, like Slack, Workplace by Facebook, and Google Cloud. Information can be collected continuously, providing real-time data and creating an insight loop.

  1. Sophisticated data analysis

So the workplace data is flowing in, but what does it actually mean? Machine learning paired with data analytics and reporting can help make sense of all the information, sifting through data to recognise patterns and draw conclusions.

  1. Data-based decision making 

The purpose of gathering and interpreting all of this data is to make better decisions, changing an organisation for the better, and turning a company’s culture into a competitive advantage. Leaders and HR teams can use the information to clarify purpose, refine company processes, and make intelligent decisions about productivity and retention. And as changes are made, the continuous feedback loop means that leaders can measure the impact of those changes.

The path to a high performing workplace

Why is all of this so important? Because if a business has a clear strategic direction coupled with a great culture, employees know what they’re aiming towards and feel motivated to achieve it. Understanding and refining company culture is the key to creating healthy, high performing organisations.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the next frontier for machine learning. EQ is already being used in market research, with companies using algorithms to scan comments about their business online so that they can monitor their brand’s reputation and predict potential crises. It’s not difficult to see how this technology can be applied to understand workplaces, with revolutionary results for business leaders.

This is the ‘employee engagement’ piece that so many HR departments are wrangling with. Employee engagement is inextricable from culture, and culture is the beating heart of an organisation. This new technology enables leaders to constantly keep a finger on the pulse.

Business leaders can now understand their workplace culture like never before, unlocking the knowledge that will help them make their organisations as brilliant as they can be. This has far-reaching effects, resulting in both more effective organisations and employees who are healthier, happier and more productive.