In another study, VoloMetrix found that the best employees tend to not only have larger networks within companies than other employees—they also engage more with staff both more senior and junior than themselves. "High performers engage in more of both activities," says Fuller. "Within some companies, high-performing employees engage with senior staff members 28 percent more than low-performers and directly engage with junior staff 16 percent more than low-performers."
As for the problems that Big Data can't solve, small data might help. The company TINYpulse works with 500 companies to take feedback surveys, typically a yearly chore, and turn them into a weekly, anonymous, one-question pop-up. Some of the questions they've asked have garnered some very unconventional, but perhaps incredibly honest, answers. For example: the question “If you were promoted to be your boss's manager in the new year, what's the first thing you would change?" The most popular answers ranged from traditional answers such as better pay and hours, to firing and demoting employees who were dead weight. Another unconventional question TINYpulse asks to measure workplace satisfaction is whether employees have interviewed for another job in the past three months.
"Traditionally HR has been about compliance and what you can’t do. And now I feel HR is about inspiration and what you can do," says TINYpulse's founder, David Niu. "It’s got to be simple...employers have to show they’re doing something with the data and not wasting people’s time."
In a TINYpulse survey of over 30,000 employees, the company found that 34 percent of the happiest employees say that they work with great people. Those sentiments are amplified by employers figuring out problems big or small—from compensation and layoff anxieties to the condition of the bathrooms or break rooms—by sending out quick, easy surveys: TINY's surveys have a 90 percent response rate at some of their client companies.