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Are Outdated Metrics Leading to Poor Workplace Decisions?

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Image: Prostock-studio - Alamy Stock Photo
When it comes to making informed workplace decisions, metrics can be a workplace leader’s best friend, offering valuable insight into how workspaces are being utilized and how they might need to change to meet employees’ demands. But while metrics can be a helpful tool, wrong or outdated metrics can lead to a number of workplace problems – chief among them, wasted time, energy, and resource.
The idea of outdated metrics impeding the future of work was raised in a recent article by architectural firm Gensler on 10 ways to rethink the future of work. Towards the bottom of the list, Gensler highlighted the need for newer metrics. The author stated:
“The benchmarks of yesterday, such as density, aren’t relevant with the new ways of working and using space. New terms are emerging, such as average occupancy, capacity, peak days, and workpoints. It won’t be about days in the office, but dwell times for different types of individual or group work settings, meeting spaces, and connecting and gathering spaces.”
We’ve discussed the idea of workplace metrics on WorkSpace Connect before (here and here). However, Gensler points out something key: newer workplace metrics are getting more granular.
Not only are workplace leaders factoring in average occupancy, but they are looking at what days are seeing the most traffic and who and what teams are using the space most effectively. This idea makes sense in terms of improving workplace flexibility — certain employees and teams will need spaces and tools at different times. Having granular metrics that shed light on those specific moments (or periods of time) will allow workplace leaders to prepare the spaces in advance or make systemic changes to the workplace that can better support a range of workstyles (i.e., behavior-based workplace design)
While the Gensler article focused primarily on physical workplaces, metrics can be useful in making a range of workplace decisions. For instance, HR professionals using accurate and timely data will gain insight on how to improve employee relations and recruitment challenges, as SHRM discussed in this blog post. And as HR metrics become more granular, they should produce a similar result.
When it comes to recruiting, HR analytics can help determine how many people the business needs at different times in the year, SHRM stated. Studying unemployment numbers and job seekers in a region or area of specialty can inform recruiters on how large their pool of possible candidates can be for a job, SHRM added. Additionally, to ensure that employees are happy (and productive), HR professionals can conduct regular surveys, which in turn provides data on what could be changed to improve the employee experience. With more granular and timely HR metrics and analytics, HR professionals should tackle employee experience issues as they happen and more quickly respond to recruiting challenges.
Though there is no doubting the power of using metrics to inform a wide range of workplace decisions, workplace leaders shouldn’t rely on metrics alone; they also need to factor considerations like workplace culture into the decision-making process. For a crude example, what happens if a workplace uses those granular analytics to make office changes that cater specifically to the people that are in the office the most? It might make sense on paper, but what happens when the occasional in-office worker heads into an office that was designed for a specific user type in mind? Will that employee find the atmosphere hostile, or at the least not welcoming, to their collaboration needs?
As I’ve argued before, workplace metrics and analytics need proper context. Additionally, workplace leaders need to ensure that the story that they are building with the data reflects the facts on the ground. Any changes workplace leaders make using data should also address employees’ everyday issues and improve the overall employee experience. No doubt metrics will be a key to the future of work, but keys work both ways — opening and closing doors. Let’s ensure that the latter doesn’t happen.