Data is the bedrock of every insight-led organization, but it comes with great responsibility. When data is used in the right way, it can enhance productivity, reduce risk, build trust and predict future trends to enhance customer and colleague experiences. However, many large organizations have a vast amount of data and are not using it properly, opening themselves up to ethical, health and wellbeing, data protection and cyber security issues to name a few.

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Then you have organizations that are not using enough data in a smart way to make the most out of their business model. Whether we have another pandemic and/or economic crisis in the future or not, they are missing the opportunity to understand the needs of their people and to become more future-ready. Organizations can use data to model or predict future scenarios, test strategies and then implement what works. Data-driven preparedness is essential to future resilience.

In my experience, working with global organizations to drive transformational and cultural change, I have found that data needs to be measured and then insights can be used to enhance performance. Too many organizations are navigating uncertainty based on instinct, not insight.

The world is changing fast, not everyone is ready

Data has always been important, but COVID-19 has accelerated the need to use data to support and enable the workforce to thrive. The pandemic has been a catalyst for a remote working revolution. Our research shows that more than 60% of people are working remotely. This trend will continue as 30% of people plan to work from home more often in the future and 49% of people, who never worked from home before, plan to work from home regularly.

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of people plan to work from home more in the future

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of people, who never worked from home before, plan to work from home regularly

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Remote workers rely on data for information and collaboration. Data can also inform levels of productivity and performance. For instance, the rise of virtual working means it’s time to depart from supervision and embrace aligned autonomy, where colleagues are empowered to take ownership of their work while staying connected with teammates. Autonomy enhances performance as people freely run with tasks without the fear of big brother watching.

Responsible leaders give their people access to digital tools and data to get the work done autonomously, but colleagues must understand how to use these tools ethically and responsibly. Not everyone is at that level of maturity. Leaders can notch up their maturity by sharing with workers the purpose of the tools, inspiring teams to collaborate through recognition campaigns and sharing their own learning experiences to accelerate adoption rates.

Responsible leaders are making data security—and employee safety—a priority

Leaders must adapt to a new world in which data and digital tools are being utilized more than ever—at home, in hybrid remote/in-person situations or on the go. Our new situation presents an opportunity to earn or diminish trust among leaders and workers. Accenture conducted research from March-July 2020 and found that when organizations use technology to enable flexible work arrangements and more creative work for an increasingly dispersed workforce, people are 98% more likely to feel fulfilled in their work. Having a sense of belonging matters.

There are many benefits to using data and technology to empower workers, but there are also some factors to consider as leaders navigate new challenges and opportunities:

  • Outcomes over hours. Leaders have long been focused on presenteeism and time spent at desks. As colleagues now have new and different needs, the focus should be more on empowering people to get work done on their terms. These types of organizations have people who care more and outcomes are stronger. Self-organizing teams are inherently more productive, innovative and responsive to change, which we all know is the only constant. We need to consider how data might be used by self-organizing teams and to distribute decision making.
  • Connect for success. People need to feel they are part of something bigger. Remote work and virtual collaboration allow the opportunity to foster shared success across teams. Leaders can bring together the best minds from every corner of the business to work on the kind of innovation that leads to market breakthroughs. And when people are supporting a clear and shared purpose (based on the vision, where the business is going and why), the output is a more committed and more effective workforce.
  • Digital savvy attracts digital savvy. When younger generations see a company uses data and digital tools ethically and responsibly, boldly addressing issues as they arise, it attracts top candidates, who are well-versed in digital capability. When companies are not focused on data protection, data privacy and cyber security, it can lead to issues that span far beyond the workforce. Organizations can lose revenue, damage their reputation and ruin relationships with their customers and business partners.
  • Safety first. Remote work, at least in part, is here to stay, and this introduces new concerns about security and privacy. People are using their own devices. Those working from home might be sharing a device with a roommate, spouse or virtual-learning child. Leaders must ensure data is protected. Leaders need to take responsibility and action to protect their people and to enhanced data security.

Are you ready to look at data as a critical member of your team? It’s time to look at data differently. It will only work to your advantage.

See more on Workforce

Sinead Sinclair

Manager – Talent & Organization / Human Potential

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