The global storm caused by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of data signals a new era of awareness regarding data privacy. Widespread consumer distrust, alongside new legislation, forces businesses to change the way they interact with customers. But that’s not enough. It also signals a need to change the way businesses interact with their employees – who, after all, are witnessing the same storm.
Organisations are grappling with vast amounts of employee data and frantically seeking efficient ways to utilise this information. But will growing public concern hinder your chances of embracing this opportunity?
People analytics is one such opportunity that’s going mainstream. It describes the art of using employee data for all aspects of workforce planning, talent management, and operational improvement. It is powered by employee data, and is reliant on the gathering, storing and processing of this data. This raises a number of concerns for the employee - data privacy, governance, theft or abuse of data to name but a few. Methods of collecting employee data, especially to analyze employee behavior, are regarded as invasive, creepy and even a bit scary. This is because there are a lot of unknowns for the employee – mostly surrounding how data is collected and why data is collected.
From the ordinary to the downright creepy, organisations of all sizes have access to a wealth of employee data. Furthermore, innovative technologies are always cropping up with new ways to gather information.
Let’s start with the ordinary – calendar, email, and schedule. Microsoft’s MyAnalytics is an add-on to Office 365 that tracks how you spend your workdays and who you meet with. It offers personalized insights into how you spend your time.
Next up – mildly creepy: the power to track interactions between individuals. Humanyze technology monitors voice and physical proximity through badges and sensors. This allows organisations to measure collaboration and conduct Organizational Network Analysis (ONA).
And finally – super creepy. How much respect do your employees have for their bosses? How many hours are they sleeping? How fit are they? How healthy are they? (Enter: toilet sensors, I’m not joking). The power to derive this data exists today.
Can you honestly expect your employees to hand this data over for free?
There has to be a benefit for the employee to get buy-in for collecting their personal data. Also, they have to understand why you're doing it. If the benefits aren't made clear, there will be uproar. Don’t believe me? Read on…
Some of the simplest sensors have caused backlash, gaining widespread media attention. The Daily Telegraph introduced space management sensors in 2016. A day later, they were removed after widespread unrest amongst the staff surfaced. They “resisted Big Brother-style surveillance in the newsroom”. The aim was to monitor space usage to reduce their real estate footprint, bringing down costs. But there was no communication with employees to explain this. How did employees interpret the sensors? They thought the sensors determined who was present and who was skiving, resulting in termination if they weren’t at their desks long enough.
The result of this failed data-gathering exercise? Suspicion, distrust and unrest, a lot of wasted money on tools (that lasted a day), and media coverage impacting brand reputation.
Why go to the trouble of conducting analytics that could cause internal and external organizational damage?
People analytics is going mainstream. McKinsey estimates that companies using these solutions could realize an increase of 275 basis points in profit margins, on average, by 2025. The potential is understood: Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report shows that 71 percent of companies see people analytics as a high priority in their organization. Yet only a mere 8% of organizations have access to this data.
So how are you going to do it?
When employees part with their data, organisations must offer something valuable in return. With no incentive to partake, suspicion and resentment will prevail.
My advice is this: the clue’s in the name. Focus on your people, and not just their data. Tackle the unknowns - your people need to understand the whys and hows of their data collection. Be transparent. Consistently communicate. Showcase how you’re collecting data responsibly. Involve them, as much as possible.
We’re in dark times for data analytics, with global news stories heralding in a new level of concern over personal data. Ensure that you retain your employees’ trust, in order to realise the true potential of people analytics.