Why frontline employees empowered by data boost company success

Frontline employees are found to make better business decisions when equipped with data.
26 May 2020

Companies gain when data-driven decisions are made. Source: Shutterstock

  • A 5G-powered future enables more data to be produced and captured 
  • Companies leveraging big data and empowering employees with business intelligence are reaping the benefits
  • Only 20 percent of companies are reported to be leaders in equipping their  workforce with big data

The confluence of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud and edge computing marks a new era of data-driven and tech-powered businesses.

Streams of data coming from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, end-user gadgets, edge devices, and the cloud form the basis of business today and tomorrow. With the rapid deployment of 5G, the volume and velocity of data will rise, leading a number of enterprises to adopt data-driven culture in order to enhance their operations and growth.

Technology research outfit Gartner has found that nearly 97 percent of data remains untouched and unused by companies. creating a capability deficit. The global firm also revealed that 87 percent of organizations have low business intelligence (BI) and analytics maturity.

It isn’t enough for organizations to be flooded with information — instead, the key to success is mining the goldmine of data and making it into actionable knowledge.

Empowering workforce with data

New research by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services has found that organizations are able to yield greater success when frontline workers are empowered with data-driven insights and knowledge when making business decisions.

The report saw that 73 percent agreed that the quality of work would improve in the short term, while 92 percent expected the improvement to continue in the long run.

The New Decision Makers: Equipping Frontline Workers For Success report, was based on responses by 464 business executives across 16 industries.

Based on participants from different regions — North American, Europe, and the Asia Pacific, the research highlighted a universal concept: The more data and the more intelligently it is used, the greater the returns an organization will see.

The report emphasizes this point by pointing out the underlying the differences between leaders and laggards with regards to cultivating a data-driven organization, and the impact it has on an enterprise’s scale.

Only 20 percent of organizations actually fall into the category of leaders, and these companies often belong to sectors such as technology/telecoms and financial services. They equip employees with digital resources that support them in making informed business decisions.

On the other hand, about 43 percent of organizations are categorized as laggards due to the lack of empowerment and digital resources their workforce receive when making a business decision. Laggards were present in all sorts of organizations, from manufacturing, to government and education, as well as healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

The distinct features of leaders and laggards can be measured by the performance data collected —  leaders were more likely to experience revenue growth in the last year, with 16 percent reported to increase over 30 percent, with another third having grown between 10 and 30 percent. 

Leaders have reported experiencing a wide range of growth, with increased efficiency throughout the entire organization. With a more digitally connected and empowered workforce, organizations are seeing productivity levels had increasing moderately by 72 percent, with customer and employee satisfaction rising to 69 percent, and the quality of products and services had improving 67 percent.

Managing Editor at the Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, Alex Clemente, has reiterated the significant impact of a data-driven workforce but has also highlighted that an organizational ‘cultural change’ is essential.

“The shift to an empowered workforce is causing organizations to experience significant increases in productivity and customer and employee satisfaction; however, more holistically, these efforts are also generating enhanced innovation, top-line growth, market position, and profitability. To enable this growth, we expect top management to first prioritize building a culture and team that supports data-based decision-making,” Clemente said in a press release.

In the same vein, nine out of ten believe that managers and supervisors are significantly responsible for empowering frontline workers; however, they conceded that 51 percent of managers are not properly equipped with the essential tools for training and instilling data-driven insights for their frontline employees.

For companies looking to tap into their goldmine of data, it is best practice to first put forward a plan in supporting and empowering employees from all levels with essential data to drive better business decisions.