The use of big data to shape people strategies has exploded over the last few years—heralding a so-called “people data revolution”—with companies seizing new opportunities to build out their workforce and people analytics functions to help analyze, predict, and improve performance. But through our research at Werk, we’ve found people analytics professionals are overlooking one crucial area: the impact of flexibility.

The import of people analytics in modern-day corporate decision-making cannot be understated. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey, “84 percent of respondents viewed people analytics as important or very important, making it the second-highest-ranked trend in terms of importance” and “70 percent of respondents were in the midst of major projects to analyze and integrate data into their decision-making.”

Companies who are leading the field of people analytics are looking at data from many sources—e.g. employee surveys, social media, and integrated data from HR and financial systems—and using that data to draw insights about employee productivity, engagement, and issues such as diversity and gender pay equity.

In our conversations with people analytics professionals from hundreds of companies, however, we’ve found that almost none of these teams are looking at the impact of flexibility on key operational and people metrics.

Why? Because flexibility has historically been a soft and squishy concept which prevents teams from being able to structure and collect the data in a way that can be analyzed to produce meaningful insights. At most, companies today look at when employees badge in and out of an office building or who in their HRIS is on a formal “flexible arrangement”— data that is often inaccurate or incomplete and perhaps most importantly, only accounts for current state data as opposed to forecasting employees’ actual needs for flexibility.

If companies could better structure and assess this data proactively, they’d be able to systematically measure the impact flexibility has not just on productivity, engagement, and diversity efforts, but also on operational metrics such as real-estate and healthcare costs.

In response to this white space, Werk developed FlexMatch™, an online tool that assesses employees’ need for and perceived access to flexibility. (In our survey of nearly 1,600 white-collar U.S. workers, for example, we found 96 percent of all employees need flexibility but only 42 percent can access the flexibility; and the gap is even larger for women, Gen X workers, and workers without children.) This type of data allows companies to assess risk, implement smarter policies, and quantify these policies’ business impact. With proprietary algorithms, FlexMatch also predicts which flexibility types are in demand in an organization and provides individualized FlexType reports for each individual so that they too can be empowered to maximize their productivity.

Recent studies show flexibility is one of the most important and sought-after aspects of the employee experience—with 1 in 2 employees reporting they would leave their job for a more flexible alternative. We predict that over the next year, we’ll see a rapid increase in the number of companies implementing structured flexibility—and using their analytics function to better leverage its true ROI.