Can we predict human behaviour using predictive analysis? While we have discussed the potential of using analytics platforms to anticipate future trends, we have never talked about how accurate it could be in portraying the routine behaviour of people.
It might sound a little odd at first, but when you think about it, it does make sense. Experienced professionals use their vast experience to anticipate what could happen in the future. These veterans rely on their intuition, which is not always reliable, but these professionals are highly valued precisely because of their experience and long-term thinking. Can predictive analytics platforms perform a similar function to these veterans but with more accuracy? That is going to be the subject of our article.
Dozens of professionals are committed to understanding human behaviour. Historians, sociologists, psychologists, criminologists and market researchers have been trying to understand how people behave for decades. So the idea of trying to predict human behaviour by studying the past is not new.
However, predictive analysis can improve existing research methods with an unprecedented level of accuracy to complement already existing research processes. Analytics platforms can collect data from a variety of sources to analyse them on a scale conventional research tools cannot match.
Machine learning algorithms can examine massive data levels to analyse human behaviour with more depth. Predictive analysis allows organisations to breakdown large datasets for in-depth analysis. Drawing on a large range of data sources makes their prediction on human behaviour more accurate than before. Anything from demographic data to geographical location adds to our understanding of human behaviour.
This means predictive analysis can generate accurate answers to complex questions. What is the behavioural pattern of a target population? Predictive analysis can account for all these factors and more.
There is also the advantage of accuracy. Predictive analysis uses several advanced analytical methods like regression analysis to identify the relationship between variables. The result is a level of analysis far more accurate than anything most organisations can devise with conventional methods.
The ability for predictive analytics to draw from a wide variety of sources and still deliver accurate results can be attributed to the technology that supports predictive analytics. Predictive analysis platforms are made up of AI and machine learning algorithms that can breakdown and analyse data in ways that were not possible before.
Data is broken down in a process called data mining – it is the process of breaking down large blocks of data to analyse information for meaningful patterns and trends. Data is also analysed in a process called regression analysis to identify the relationship between variables. While the precise methods can vary, it is about discovering the influence of independent variables on dependent variables. The exact process is quite complex and can only be done with any reasonable degree of accuracy using analytics platforms.
However, it should be noted that data analytics is not foolproof. This is because most predictive analytics platforms become attuned to making predictions based on historical data if not optimised. For example, analytics platforms can register human bias rather than acting as a bulwark against it, if not programmed properly.
Despite this drawback, predictive analysis offers the best chance of understanding human behaviour more accurately. Public and private organisations can benefit tremendously from using these tools to better understand people’s behaviour.
What can organisations do if they can predict human behaviour with a reasonable degree of accuracy?
Private organisations can refine their marketing and customer service efforts, but that is just scratching the surface. NGOs will be better placed to provide support, hospitals can focus on proactive healthcare, and businesses can better understand their customer base. There is a lot of potential for a mutually beneficial relationship when predicting human behaviour accurately, along with some exciting new possibilities.
Predicting human behaviour offers several advantages for both organisations and people in the form of better service, more convenient offers and better performance, provided the right tools are in place. With its ability to process large datasets accurately, a platform for predictive analysis could be one of the most convenient tools to study human behaviour.
Work from home sounds enticing until it isn’t.
I know WFH has been necessary for many of us, and I am proud to say that the Selerity team has managed to adapt to the situation, remarkably well. But I have learnt that not everyone is like that. In some cases, WFH has worked against companies and their interests. I say this based on a conversation I had with a friend of mine, over the weekend.
He was the manager at a prominent insurance company, and his entire team had shifted to WFH because of the lockdown. Productivity suffered almost immediately. He was quite frustrated, but what really annoyed him was that the department was doing a fantastic job before the lockdown.
“I just don’t understand it,” he ranted. “Prior to this whole thing, we were one of the best departments! The most productive. The work is still the same, the demands are still the same, but the standards aren’t, I honestly don’t know what changed.”
I was curious about the matter, so after the call I spoke to another friend of mine, someone who worked in HR, to ask for her input. “WFH can be a mixed bag,” she said. “It sounds enticing, but there are a number of disadvantages that come with it,” I asked her about some of these disadvantages. “Feeling disconnected from others, not following protocol, dropping morale, there’s a lot.”
“Is there any way to prevent these problems from hurting work?” I asked, “I have a manager friend who is awfully frustrated.” Truth be told, I was a little concerned about my own team, but I didn’t have to mention that part. “Well, you can take steps to minimise the drawbacks from WFH,” she said. “But that’s only possible if you have the proper monitoring systems in place, something to keep an eye on performance, I think you have an idea what could help with that,”
I most certainly did – you see, what my manager friend was missing was people analytics.
People analytics refers to the capacity to use data to improve talent recruitment, retention and employee practices. It’s not a brand new concept, but it has become more important than ever with WFH policies in place.
With teams and departments scattered across a wide geographical area. It’s more important than ever before to have systems in place that collect data on productivity and performance.
One benefit of people analytics is its versatility when monitoring performance. For example, Salesforce has a people analytics system that allows them to see which employees are struggling under a certain manager and intervene before a serious problem occurs.
What’s particularly impressive about people analytics is that it is not a particularly new concept where you need to completely revamp your strategy. Most organisations are already collecting a vast amount of data on their workforce, all that remains is the ability to analyse it and make the most of the data with people analytics.
People analytics can be the tool you need to monitor company performance at a time when the workforce is no longer connected via in-person communication. It’s hard to ascertain why employees might be performing at a certain level when they might be kilometres away from you. However, with analytics in place, you can use data to find an answer and develop a solution to the problem.
Furthermore, it helps with management. Some managers might be more comfortable making decisions when they see their employees working and performing. However, since that option is no longer available, providing evidence-based data can be just as helpful in the decision-making process.
When they have access to data, they will know who is performing, who is struggling and what are some of the causes, even if they are not in regular contact with their team members.
As lockdowns start lifting (they are already putting together plans to lift the lockdown in Victoria), offices will slowly open up, and we will all return to our spaces once again. However, even if WFH policies are no longer in place, there is still a place for people analytics in the office.
Organisations can save a lot of time and money finding the best candidates, but they can also bring out the best in their workforce using insights from data to boost productivity and morale, as well as address issues before they cause serious problems. For these reasons, I believe that by the time this lockdown ends, every organisation will have a more sophisticated people analytics system incorporated into business operations.
If nothing else, it will save managers a lot of confusion and frustration.