“The ability to tell meaningful stories with data is what makes you a strong business partner,” says Marie Toby, Head of People and Organization at Taxfix. 

Taxfix is on a mission to make our lives easier – and file taxes with more confidence. Germany’s most popular mobile tax app has already helped people reclaim more than a billion euro in tax refunds. The Taxfix team, based in Berlin and Madrid, is made up of more than 350 professionals from over 45 different countries. And it’s scaling quickly to conquer new markets. 

In such a fast-paced environment, data is critical to successful hiring and recruiting. Taxfix hires up to 90 people each quarter and needs a strong team of sourcers, recruiters and HR business partners. The HR team accounts for nearly 10% of the company’s workforce. 

Human Panel spoke to Marie Toby, Head of People and Organization at Taxfix, about the importance of people insights and the weight of HR data in a KPI-driven business.

Human Panel: Is data analytics your bread and butter in a business growing as fast as Taxfix?

Marie Toby, Head of People and Organization at Taxfix: I like to call it data insights or people insights. I always stress that it’s not about having analytics tools and access to a huge amount of data. It’s more about the insights you get from it – and what you do with them.

Analytics is embedded in our HR structures. We make extensive use of data reports and visualizations, and we make sure that the key stakeholders have access to them. On my team, we also use a dedicated engagement and development platform. 

We spend a lot of time digging into data and asking ourselves: What does this mean? What’s the hypothesis? Is there any recommendation from that?

Collecting data for its own sake does not make sense – you need to know what you want to do with it. 

Marie Toby

How are the HR tech tools useful in this context?

Since I started my job at Taxfix, I have relied on tools and systems to provide us with relevant data points. What I find most useful about all of them is their ability to extract clean data that can be filtered and have a storyline behind numbers. 

But having clean data and basic metrics is only the first step. The second step is to encourage your team to use them to their fullest potential to identify trends and areas of concern. The key is to take a holistic view of an employee’s entire lifecycle.

Data is most effective when you can connect all the dots and discover correlations between different data points. If you can tell meaningful stories with data, you are a powerful business partner. Sometimes, it makes you feel almost like a magician.

Marie Toby

For me, it’s also crucial to work with data continuously and keep it clean. Regularity and consistency – that’s the path to success.

How often do you hear “show me the numbers” when discussing strategic decisions about people management?

Taxfix is a KPI-driven and goal-oriented company, so we always try to get to the numbers, in fact. 

Interestingly, when it comes to people management issues, people assume that it’s difficult to measure certain things. For example, how can you measure culture? We had discussed this thoroughly and we were unable to come up with a satisfactory metric for a long time. 

When you present data on employee engagement or retention, you will often hear: “Is that valid?” or “Are you sure about these metrics?” People-related issues are seen as more “fuzzy” and difficult to measure. But if you really work with data, over time, you’ll see that there are many data points that actually give you valuable numbers with which you can measure culture – such as engagement rate, eNPS, employee retention, and turnover rate. 

Today, at Taxfix, we are beyond that basic stage of just “getting some numbers.” We are now at a point where we have clear and measurable KPIs and understand what those numbers mean.

Marie Toby

We have talked a lot about how to measure culture and how it can drive business success. Now, after all the groundwork we have done, it’s interesting to see the discussion about the same numbers, but with very different granularity. 

It’s still a challenge to convince others that HR can be as data-driven as marketing or sales.

It is. You can run surveys and get measurable results, but you might still hear: “Is that sound? That’s not comparable to other teams.” People tend to be skeptical of employee data. Of course, people management is a complex subject, and you cannot simplify it and reduce it to a few core numbers. You need more to tell a whole story, but numbers are a good starting point

Can you give our readers an example where data changed your process or solved a problem?

Data is constantly improving our processes! At Taxfix, our regular culture surveys serve as a sort of heatmap of the entire organization. They show us which teams are doing fantastic work and which may be struggling. This way, we immediately know where to invest our time and resources to investigate the problem, define an action plan, revise it, and even change the entire roadmap. 

We are seeing leaders, managers and teams make fantastic turnarounds in people management thanks to data. Some of them have really turned their results around in a very short time. The data has helped them move forward with their teams – and I can say that this is the main pillar of how we take action based on numbers. 

Marie Toby from Taxfix about HR data

On the other hand, data can also limit us. For example, we have always scored a 90 plus on our post onboarding surveys. You might think, “That’s great,” but where’s the room for improvement? In a case like this, you lack clarity about where the opportunities are. How can we take the process to a truly exceptional level? 

In our case, we almost started to challenge the data itself. We asked, “How can we get more granular?”; “Can we go back to the people and get more qualitative insights about the core elements of the onboarding experience?” We could have put a check mark here and said, “well done.” But then we would not have had a true picture of the quality of our process. 

[The text continues below the form]

Would you like to get a heatmap of your organization and have access to correlated employee data? Manage your people with measurable KPIs and structure your data to spot problems early. Sign up for a free demo of Human Panel and discover the power of people analytics.

Ready to start people analytics with Human Panel?

Let us put analytics aside for a moment and talk about the culture-building aspect of your role at Taxfix. What kind of workplace do you want to create and how do you do it in a remote environment?

At Taxfix, we have decided to implement a hybrid model. It allows our employees a high degree of flexibility. This way, they can combine their work preferences and personal needs, with in-person opportunities to strengthen our sense of belonging and community and ease collaboration.

Our goal is to create a place where people feel trusted to do their best work and can truly be themselves. A place where they feel good – physically, mentally, and spiritually, because otherwise, they would not be able to produce great things, innovate and work well together. People’s wellbeing has a direct impact on business results. 

Marie Toby

Another value I hold dear isempathy Sometimes it’s more about understanding specific data points and context, sometimes it’s about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. In this case, it’s both important to create a safe space for employees to share their thoughts and to train managers on how to listen. It’s not just about ensuring that “empathy” is embedded in the company’s values, but also about going the extra mile and really considering: “How can I be more empathetic?” These may be small things, but they make a big difference to our employees. 

At Taxfix, we test and decide on many initiatives. We approach our employees and say, “Hey, we have childcare support, mental health support and coaching support if you need.” We also give people space to have downs sometimes, and we try to be there for them when they need it. 

Can data be useful in all these processes?

Yes, of course. When it comes to wellbeing, there are hard factors to consider such as the number of sick days, employee absenteeism, the number of days off, and engagement rates. Team performance can also be a valuable indicator. Those are the dotted lines I mentioned earlier. 

These numbers can be a good starting point for discussion and open conversations. 

Do you think employee wellbeing will be the next big topic in HR?

I feel like there are several trends emerging, and some of them are even contradictory. There’s a lot of discussion about the empathetic, servant leadership style, and at the same time, I am seeing empowerment of candidates and employees in these troubled times. As an employer today, if you do not offer mental health support or flexibility, candidates will not choose you. Mental health benefits are almost a must. 

We must remember that we are all weakened by the pandemic and have low energy levels. I want us all to feel comfortable saying “no” and having a day off. Yet, many of us try to “freeze” burnout and, almost like a show, keep going and falling – again and again. 

I do not have an answer for how much we have learned so far, but I am really curious to see if we will actually emerge from this crisis weaker or stronger as a human workforce.

How do you think this relates to the “war for talent” and the highly competitive job market?

We have to remember that this wave is both a challenge and an opportunity. People are rethinking what is important to them and what kind of work they want. They are looking for an environment where they feel comfortable. Because of this, employers need to strengthen their identity, talk about who they are, and be authentic. That’s what makes the difference at the end of the day. 

Of course, I hope we can be one of them. In general, the market is getting tougher, competition is growing and we can see a “San Francisco” salary trend. At the same time, many positions are becoming extremely attractive. I am watching this with great interest because I believe that the increased demand for talent can accelerate the change in talent acquisition. For years, many companies have copied hiring models without much innovation when it comes to assessing or visualizing data or VR. As hiring is deeply embedded within every organization, I’m really excited to see what innovative and creative ways we will see in the future. 

See all features of Human Panel