From Insight to Action: 5 Steps for Translating Analytics to Executive Audiences

By now, it is practically undisputed that companies must integrate data analytics into their core workplace & people strategies to stay competitive and future-proof. Still, despite huge investments in analytics programs, the return on workplace analytics investments for most has been sub-par or difficult to quantify. For various reasons, many organizations who invest in advanced analytics do not fully unlock their value – with some sectors only tapping as little as 10%. One major reason for this loss of value is the common disconnect between analysts and executive leadership. Even the most sophisticated analyses are useless without actionable takeaways, and if the insights aren’t made accessible to executive audiences, they have no real value to the organization.

To help bridge this gap, some enterprises are investing in hiring or training dedicated staff for analytics translation across the organization. Analytics Translators are responsible for working with business stakeholders and data analysts alike to identify and prioritize use cases, ensure alignment, and simplify the findings for executives so they can quickly and confidently take data-driven action. According to McKinsey, the Analytics Translator role is one of the most critical roles for unlocking the full value of advanced analytics at scale. That said, not all companies have the time or resources to hire and train enough full-time staff for analytics translation, particularly at scale for every department. This is why it is critical for anyone who works with workplace data to have an understanding of ways to translate complex analyses into tangible insights, so no value goes to waste or opportunity goes missed.

1. Understanding & Empathizing with the Executive

To an analyst, Executives, who rarely have enough time or attention for any one thing, may come off as impatient, critical, or over-simplifying. They likely do not care about how long it took to clean the data, what models were used, or what statistical caveats should be considered. What they really want to know? How it impacts employees, the business, and performance.

Quality analytics translation for executive audiences starts with a mindset shift. In addition to considering your own department or role’s objectives, remember to put yourself in the shoes of the executive. What organizational challenges keep them up at night? What data could point to the root of the problem and potential solutions? What vocabulary or approach might resonate with them most? Before preparing insights for an executive, start by answering these questions and mapping out how the insights you are delivering can directly impact the metrics or outcomes executives care about most. This mindset serves as a strong foundation and basis for all other steps, as it helps you to consider their perspective throughout all other aspects of your briefing or report.

2. Lead with the “So, what?”

When sharing what your findings are, it might be easy to assume that executives have all the knowledge necessary to contextualize them and deduce their importance. If executives could dedicate the same amount of time and attention to interpreting this data, they likely would be able to draw some conclusions. They are not analytics experts, however, nor do they want to pretend to be. Instead, it is the translators’ role to explain to executives why a particular finding matters and what the consequences could or would be if no action is taken. By emphasizing why it matters and leading with the most important or critical information first, you increase the likelihood that they will take action – even if they don’t have time to review all of the findings in granular detail. One helpful way to stay organized is with a short, clear, and compelling executive summary.

3. Speak their Language

Executives do not think in “variables,” “regressions,” or “p-values” – they think in terms of “costs” and “risks” to the business. To ensure clarity and resonance, insights and summaries should use the same terms that executives use. Additionally, translators should avoid overly analytical jargon, unnecessarily complicated vocabulary, and filler words. The clearer and more direct, the better.

4. Prioritize, Simplify, & Cite

Busy executives will not spend time weeding through data in search of takeaways, and they are unlikely to wait for value if they don’t see it right from the start. This means that instead of a traditional “narrative” structure (which builds to a climax), executive audiences need to see the climax (the most critical things) first. Supporting findings and material can then follow, ordered from most to least compelling. Anything that does not add relevant insight or directly support the executive summary’s key takeaways is not worth sharing, as it distracts from and dilutes the message and reduces the likelihood of executive action.

This also applies to statistical and scientific explanations and caveats. Though it is important to acknowledge relevant caveats, definitions, and explanations to prevent misinterpretation, they do not need to be included in detail along with the findings. Instead, to reduce clutter and keep a clear and powerful message, provide linked citations or notes for further reference when necessary.

5. Guide Them to Action

Just as executives rely on analysts and translators to guide them to insight, they also need help knowing where, when, and how to act on insights. When an executive leader gives you their time, it is a rare window to inspire action and share suggested next steps, so take advantage. If you have delivered a clear, simple, and compelling message, it is a wasted opportunity not to follow it with suggestions for how to take action in order to fully realize the value of their analytics investment.

Enabling Effective Translation At-Scale

These five steps, when implemented at scale across an organization, can materially impact an organization’s ability to stay ahead and compete through data-driven decision-making. Though anyone can play the role of an analytics translator with the right guidance and training, one of the best ways to enable scaled action on insights is with technology and trusted vendors.

To learn more about how Humanyze’s solutions calculate and translate business-critical insights to all levels of an organization, contact

Last Updated 09 November 2022