How People Analytics can Improve Workplace Conflict Management

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How People Analytics Can Transform Workplace Conflict Management

People analytics is one of the fastest-growing areas of HR. In fact, according to a report from the CIPD and Workday; People analytics: Driving business performance with people data, HR professionals use people data to tackle significant challenges, with three-quarters (75%) dealing with workforce performance and productivity issues specifically with this evolving analysis method. That said, a survey by Tata Consultancy Services found that just 5% of big-data investments go to HR, while a further study from Deloitte showed that although people analytics has become more widely used, only 9% of companies believe they have a good understanding of how to apply them to drive performance in their organisations.


What exactly is people analytics?

At its core, people analytics involves gathering and analysing data to make informed decisions about human resources. From recruitment to performance management, this methodology has proven its worth in numerous HR domains.

Many of the large corporations are already using people data analysis to improve the employee experience and assist HR across the entire function. However, a burgeoning area of application for people analytics is conflict management. The disruptive, uncomfortable, and challenging situations that can surface from internal disputes have traditionally seen HR relying on subjective methods to address them, often leading to suboptimal resolutions. However, the advent of people analytics is changing the game, providing a data-driven approach to unravel the complexities of interpersonal discord. Here are just some of the ways in which this evolving data application can help HR in conflict resolution.


Predicting tension or areas of potential conflict

Undoubtedly, one key advantage of people analytics is its predictive capabilities. By analysing historical conflict data, HR professionals can identify patterns and anticipate potential issues before they escalate. For instance, analysing communication patterns and team dynamics might reveal friction points, allowing proactive interventions to prevent conflicts.

Imagine a scenario where analytics detects a pattern of increased tension between two team members. With this insight, HR can initiate conflict resolution training, foster open communication, or even consider reassigning tasks to alleviate the strain. This proactive approach not only prevents conflicts but also contributes to a healthier work environment.

This type of predictive modelling uses predictive analytics to identify potential conflicts before they escalate and involves analysing historical data to identify patterns and trends that may indicate future conflicts. This can be further segmented to identify potential conflict hotspots, which could be departments, teams, or projects where conflicts are more likely to occur based on historical data.


Data-driven mediation: Improving resolution processes

In the heat of a conflict, emotions often run high, and subjective judgement may cloud decision-making. People analytics offers a valuable alternative by providing objective data to inform mediation processes. For example, analysing employee performance, collaboration metrics, and feedback can offer a comprehensive view of the individuals involved. For example, if two employees’ conflict with project responsibilities, by examining data on individual contributions, meeting attendance, and project outcomes, HR can facilitate a more objective and fair resolution. This resolves the immediate conflict and fosters a culture of transparency and accountability.

Employee engagement metrics: Building stronger teams

Preventing conflicts is just as crucial as resolving them. People analytics can contribute to conflict prevention by focusing on employee engagement metrics. High levels of engagement often correlate with positive team dynamics, reducing the likelihood of conflicts. Analysing employee engagement data to understand how engaged employees are within their teams can be incredibly helpful in spotting conflict before it escalates as low engagement levels may be an indicator of potential conflicts.

Implementing a people analytics tool that measures employee satisfaction, collaboration rates, and workload distribution can help identify teams with lower engagement levels and implement targeted interventions, such as team-building activities and workload adjustments. The subsequent increase in overall employee satisfaction can lead to a significant reduction in conflicts.


Designing solutions for workplace management

Data from people analytics can also be used to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your current conflict management policies and practices. It can identify the gaps and opportunities for improvement as well as enable you to compare and contrast other methods used by HR. Models such as negotiation, mediation, coaching or arbitration can be explored and the best approach to the particular conflict will be suggested.

The data can also go deeper still. Through analysis of individual employee preferences, HR can tailor the approach to the strategy that is most likely to be effective for those people, using personality, working style, personal values and goals as a barometer for the correct methodology.


Social network mapping

People analytics can also be used as network analysis to map social interactions within the organisation. This can identify central figures, communication patterns, and potential cliques that may contribute to conflicts. Being able to identify isolated individuals or groups that may be prone to conflicts due to lack of communication or collaboration can nip trouble in the bud and help HR smooth out any bubbling friction quickly and with minimum disruption.

People data analytics are also effective surveillance tools which can be implemented to track real-time collaboration and communication patterns – and can even be automated to identify predefined conflict markers which can then be actioned by HR. This analysis can be used across the company and can even analyse diversity metrics to identify potential sources of tension or bias that may lead to conflicts.

Despite the obvious benefits that data analysis can offer HR, there are also ethical considerations such as how to balance data and privacy. Striking a balance between data-driven decision-making and respecting employee privacy is paramount. HR departments must establish transparent policies and communicate clearly about the types of data collected and how it will be used to manage conflicts to avoid employees’ regarding HR as a ‘Big Brother-esque’ omnipresent force in the organisation.


Supporting L&D

Analytics can be used to identify skill gaps that may contribute to conflicts. This can then be used to shape training and development programmes. This can also be used in leadership development where HR can analyse leadership performance data to identify areas for improvement and provide training to enhance conflict resolution skills

People analytics will not eliminate all workplace conflicts but offers a powerful toolkit to enhance conflict management strategies. Leveraging data to predict, mediate, and prevent conflicts, develop and train people to improve their conflict management skills, and bring awareness to the organisation, will foster a more harmonious and productive work environment.