Data plays a key role in making HR decisions within digital marketplace firm Envato, according to its head of HR, who explained that this helps HR know what the business is thinking and feeling in a scalable way.

“Data is key to any decision so we use it constantly in HR at Envato,” said James Law, HR director for Envato, which operates a group of digital marketplaces for more than 1.5 million active buyers/sellers and over 6 million community members.

Law said the business surveys its people every quarter using Culture Amp, Great Place to Work and its own internal survey, which is used to specifically understand how well its platform (shared services) group is enabling the business.

“Then we take this data and slice and dice it into demographics that tell us a story about how the people at Envato are feeling about their work,” he said.

“We then use these stories to help leaders decide what they should be putting their people planning efforts into.”

Law, who was speaking ahead of the HR Leaders Forum, which will be held in Sydney on 21-22 February, said a good example of this is feedback around flexibility in terms of where and how people worked.

“So we introduced an initiative that allows anyone to work from anywhere and no-one needs to be in the office if that better suits the work they are doing,” said Law.

“The data also led to us introduce ‘work from abroad’ initiative where anyone (with agreement from their team) can work from overseas for three months a year,” said Law, who explained that this has led to increased satisfaction levels around flexibility questions and increased retention.

“To be clear though, surveys are not the answer; trusted relationships are”

This approach has also helped in driving opportunities for HR and broader value creation through the business, as Law said data helps HR know what the business is thinking and feeling in a scalable way.

“An example of that is we could tell from the answers to questions over a few surveys that people felt that teams weren’t working as collaboratively as they should be,” he said.

“This surprised us, so we dug into it a bit more and realised that cross-functional teams were working on projects that had a common objective that was different to their personal goals, so (quite rightly) it meant that individual project team members were focussing more on meeting their own personal goals – rather than the project’s.”

In response, HR developed a matrix organisational structure which allowed cross-functional teams to have the same goals, and this led to a big uplift in positive responses to questions related to teamwork and collaboration.

“This is what data helps HR do and ensures HR is adding value from a commercial perspective,” said Law.

He explained that Envato has been built on the basic principles in Dan Pink’s Drive book which talks about the only three principles that are important to people: that their work has a purpose, that they can work on it autonomously (without their manager watching over their shoulder) and that they get a chance to master it because everyone intrinsically wants to do a good job.

“Without asking people how we are going against these criteria, we would have no idea if all the hard work and effort is making that better or worse,” he said.

“To be clear though, surveys are not the answer; trusted relationships are.

“People are complicated (that’s what makes them great and unique) but what they want out of work is usually pretty simple”

“No one will tell you what they are feeling unless they trust you and those trusted relationships are formed between managers and leaders to ensure managers get great feedback from their teams on what they need and can action it at a team level.

“Then if we build trust by doing something positive with the data from our organisational surveys the people who work at Envato trust us that it is worthwhile investing time and energy in telling us how they are feeling.”

Envato also asks questions about wellbeing as part of its surveys, and respond with initiatives accordingly.

“So for example, a couple of years ago we had some feedback that we could be better at offering health and wellbeing opportunities to our people,” said Law.

“So we brought together a group of people who were interested in telling us more about that and what that would look like.”

The feedback was that Envato needed mental health training to help managers with team members who identified as having mental health challenges, as well as yoga and meditation classes to help with people sitting at a desk all day in addition to general life stresses and more support/resources for our people to form sporting teams as a way to stay fit and socialise.

“We wouldn’t have had these conversations if we didn’t get data back which showed us we needed to deep dive into this a bit more and come up with solutions,” said Law.

“People are complicated (that’s what makes them great and unique) but what they want out of work is usually pretty simple.

“You won’t know what it is they want until you build enough trust in your relationships so they feel comfortable telling you! Until then you’re just guessing.”

Law will be speaking at the HR Leaders Forum, which will be held in Sydney on 21-22 February at the PARKROYAL, Darling Harbour. For more information visit the HR Leaders Forum website. Image source: iStock