Unlocking the power of data: strategies to boost staff engagement with data

In this blog, Adam Ceney, our Head of Analytics, explores the issues when it comes to staff engagement with data and the possible solutions to this.

There is no shortage of data that is collected, analysed, and distributed across the healthcare system, whether it is internally to manage services or in the form of centralised statutory data flows.  

With access to such large volumes of data, it is widely accepted that the provision and utilisation of this data is seen as a vital piece in the puzzle of facing down the challenges the NHS currently faces – whether that is elective care recovery, workforce or integrations.   

Yet, with all the teams of analysts, data scientists, developers, engineers and architects working out ways to make the data available and accessible, not to mention all the conferences, briefings and roundtables discussing this topic, staff engagement with data is still not where it could be according to our experience.  

There are several reasons we have found for staff being disengaged and seemingly disinterested in data across our engagements with healthcare organisations.  

See if you can spot any of these in your own organisation. 

  1. Data can be seen as complex and technical. There is often a lack of appreciation that staff members do not fully understand the significance and relevance of the data they have access to and, consequently, may not engage with it. 
  2. Data can often exist in a technical bubble with inadequate communication to wider groups of staff, meaning they may not fully grasp its importance or how it relates to their roles and responsibilities.
  3. Data can be of poor quality which can be due to inefficient processes and lack of ownership that often results in staff not having trust in the data they are receiving, which in turn causes engagement challenges when sharing data. 
  4. Staff perceive, rightly or wrongly, that data is only used to evaluate their performance or criticise their work. They may therefore be hesitant to engage with it as the fear of negative consequences can discourage active participation in data-related discussions. 
  5. Data presented to staff is not directly related to their job responsibilities or areas of expertise, so they may not see it as relevant to their work. When data is not aligned with their day-to-day tasks, employees may struggle to see how it impacts their job performance. 
  6. There is so much data that is being processed, analysed and pushed out to staff, which can lead them to be inundated with excessive amounts of data. They may feel overwhelmed, and you may hear staff describing their relationship with data as information overload. 
  7. Employees may not see the value of engaging with data, if an organisation lacks emphasis on using data to drive decision-making and leaders do not prioritise or role model data usage.
  8. Staff face a skills gap and feel they don’t have access to user-friendly tools to enable them to easily analyse and interpret data. This could discourage their engagement. 

 So, how many of the above are relevant to your organisation? If some are, then these strategies could help.  

Engaging with data – the solutions 

Provide training and support to enhance data literacy  

This can include data analysis techniques, data visualization tools and interpretation of data results. However, this training and support should not be a one-off ‘lunch and learn’, but an ongoing development path to help staff members develop confidence in working with data.  

Clearly communicate the importance, value and relevance of data   

Help them understand how data can drive informed decision-making, improve performance, and contribute to the overall success of the organisation.  

Present data in an accessible way   

This should meet the needs of the intended audience and highlight real-world examples of how data has been used successfully in the past in the organisation or sector. 

Encourage ownership 

Encourage staff to take ownership and accountability for data they have responsibility to collect, as well as involving them in the design and specification of data collection and its analysis and interpretation.  

Use data to make informed decisions  

Look to empower staff to use data to make informed decisions and hold them accountable for using data in their work in a transparent and open process. This can also foster a sense of ownership and motivation to engage with data. Lead by example too – this can be achieved through appropriate governance and structures/frameworks which set a bar for evidence gathering.  

Make data relevant 

Ensure that what is presented to staff is directly related to their roles and responsibilities. Achieve this by finding out their priority areas, what they need to do their roles effectively and what challenges they have in delivering. 

Avoid overwhelming employees  

Don’t burden staff with excessive data or complex reports. Do ensure data is presented in a concise, clear and meaningful manner. Use data visualisation techniques, such as charts or graphs, to make data more accessible and understandable and ensure staff are trained so they can fully realise the value of data.  

Build a positive culture 

A positive company culture should value data-driven decision-making. Encourage open discussions about data, create opportunities for employees to share insights or findings from data analysis, and recognise and reward employees for their data-related contributions.  

Provide access to user-friendly data analysis 

Ensure that staff members have access to user-friendly data analysis tools and technology platforms that enable them to easily work with data. Provide training on how to use these tools effectively and make them readily available for employees to access and utilise. 

Addressing these potential causes of lack of engagement in data from staff requires a holistic approach that includes effective communication, an engaged leadership, relevant and meaningful data, appropriate training and support, a positive organisational culture that values data-driven decision-making, and user-friendly technology tools. 

By implementing these strategies, organisations can foster a data-driven culture where employees are engaged with data and use it to drive decision-making and performance improvement.  

It may require ongoing efforts and continuous reinforcement to create a culture that embraces data and encourages staff engagement with it, but it will be worth the effort to improve patient care.