Today’s workers are more willing to speak out against mistreatment and harassment, and companies are feeling the heat. For example, Google’s head of HR, Eileen Naughton, recently stepped down amid employee unrest and dissatisfaction with the workplace culture, including protests over the company’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

This is an extreme example but it serves to highlight the fact that workplace tensions can easily boil over before a company—even one as sophisticated as Google—is fully aware of the tensions. This is especially true when the tensions are inherently difficult to perceive, like cultural or generational differences, and don’t stem from bad intent.

Even in the wake of the #MeToo movement and growing awareness of mistreatment, organizations still struggle to understand and solve emerging workplace issues before it’s too late. The reality is that many corporate HR teams and senior leadership have no visibility into what’s happening in their organization until employees up and quit—or file a lawsuit or go public with a petition. It’s only then they discover that problems exist in their workplace.

That’s why people analytics—the process of building talent strategies and seeing emerging workplace problems based on the gathering of qualitative and quantitative data—is becoming so important. With people analytics, organizations can gain visibility into issues before they bubble to the surface and before they reach the point of lawsuits or key employees heading for the exit.

People analytics gives companies a window into what is really happening in their organization and what workers are thinking about. It measures employee engagement, overall well-being and mental health, and monitors the worker experience, both positive and negative

People analytics can also help businesses make the right strategic decisions – ranging from who to hire, who to promote, how to compensate, how work styles impact team performance, and much more.  People Analytics not only helps solve workplace issues, it enables organizations to make more complex business decisions that rely largely on the human factor.

Here are three ways that companies can harness people analytics to make sure they spot early warning signs and take corrective action before serious damage is done.

  1. Put a platform in place to gather data. Progressive people leaders are eager to leverage data to gain a deeper understanding of their organization and make it a better place to work. This begins with a data-gathering platform that enables employees to log their negative experiences and report unfair or unjust treatment. This kind of real-time data, whether privately documented or with a name attached, enables HR to track trends and patterns in order to get a pulse on the current culture of the organization.

Such a platform will help you collect data every step of the way when an employee is experiencing any uncomfortable situation in the workplace. You can understand the logistics of when, where, and what. Just as important, you can measure if and how these incidents are impacting workplace productivity. It’s essential for the HR team to know not just about the incidents that are troubling the employee, but also to understand how they’re impacting employee morale and retention—and, ultimately, the bottom line.

  1. Make it easy to report incidents. Organizations should make it as easy and stress-free as possible for employees to report workplace issues or incidents of mistreatment. This means being proactive and creating an environment of trust in which employees can come forward early. The truth is that every employee is different and not everyone wants to go directly to HR at the first sign of trouble. Many employees will question what they are experiencing and hesitate to come forward. As a result, many organizations believe they don’t have any workplace issues because no issues are being reported directly to HR.

But you don’t know what you don’t know. It could well be that employees fear coming out publicly, assuming it will make the situation worse or result in retaliation or personal embarrassment. That’s why it’s essential for companies to make it easy for employees to for employees to write down their experiences, even when they’re not ready to come forward publicly. Capturing this data gives HR early insight and enables it to piece together patterns, thus shedding light on systemic issues if they exist.

  1. Create a culture of trust. Once you introduce a people analytics system, you should understand that your company culture will not change overnight. You have to continuously demonstrate to your workers that you are serious about stopping or preventing any type of workplace mistreatment and eliminating toxic behavior. The end goal of people analytics is to create a more open, trusting environment in which employees feel comfortable enough to come forward early.

This starts by having continuous conversations about workplace issues and always keeping lines of communication open. That way, employees will feel more comfortable stepping forward to report issues because they know they will be taken seriously. This will also help you identify those hard-to-define behavioral issues in the workplace that HR may miss and put you in a position to proactively address them before it’s too late.

At the end of day, people analytics can help you to clearly see what’s going on in your company. Collecting that data and then tackling any workplace issues head-on will enable you to gain better insight into the people who drive your business growth, so you can establish a more positive, data-driven and productive organization

Jana Morrin is the CEO & Co-founder of Speakfully, a support, resource and documentation platform that empowers both employees and employers with a method to ensure everyone feels safe, secure and comfortable at work. Her Twitter handle is @JanaMorrin.

Nandini Easwar is the Product & Technology Leader at Speakfully, currently solving the workplace mistreatment problem through modern technology, to enable a safe workspace for all.

Workplace problems stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock