by Josh Bersin, founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte, a leading research and advisory firm, Forbes Magazine, 8/15.
The Quantified Self Comes to Work
Well, the Quantified Self movement has come to work. Each day day more and more tools are being developed to help employers monitor, track, and better understand the activity of workers. These tools are real-time, often anonymous, and usually invisible. And many of the startups in Human Resources believe that bringing the Quantified Self movement to HR is the next big thing. Here are some examples.
1. Employee Monitoring
Companies have been monitoring our internet access for years. But now they’re monitoring our daily activity, who we meet with, and where we go.
The New York Times just published a great article about a new set of tools that lets employers monitor location. These tools, which fit inside an employee badge, tell your company who you’re meeting with and how “social” you are. So far companies using this technology have already discovered that more social people (people who eat lunch at bigger tables) are better at customer service…
Some companies are even more creative. A well known company I recently met with (I will leave them anonymous) developed a tool to monitor the pattern of employee emails. They look at everyone’s “To” list and “cc” list and also who they are receiving email “from.” Their goal is not to read anyone’s email, but rather to study the patterns of communication in the company. This is a “culture-driven” company and they are using the information to understand who are the “connectors” in the organization and what patterns of communication seem to lead to higher levels of performance…
2. Real Time Employee Engagement
The second explosive area for the Quantified Employee is providing real-time feedback on the work environment. Traditionally companies have used annual engagement surveys to capture this information: that process is rapidly becoming too slow, too coarse, and just not very useful.
Replacing this, a new set of tools (most run on mobile devices) let you speak up about how you feel at work on a real time basis. These tools (companies like CultureAmp, Achievers, BlackbookHR, TinyPulse, OfficeVibe, TemboSocial, Hppy, Waggl, 15Five and many others) are hitting the market like a storm. Companies of all sizes are starting to move away from annual engagement surveys and putting in place real-time feedback systems…
These are all good things. The Japanese Niko Nikocalendar, pioneered in Japan, has given managers real-time feedback on their teams for years. Anything that frees up information and gives people transparency and freedom to share what they feel will make management more accountable and improve the work environment. And let’s face it, people often won’t speak up publicly but they will confidentially.
3. Employee Retention and BigData Monitoring Tools
The third wave of “quantified self” tools is coming from a new breed of companies (Entelo, OrgStars, and others) which mine social data and apply intelligence to figure out if you’re thinking about changing jobs. These tools monitor all your aggregated social activity and try to develop a “score” which tells employers if you’re looking for a new job. The benefit? Fast-growing companies can quickly figure out who is thinking about leaving and try to prevent retention problems.
And many tools go even further. Companies like Evolv On Demand, IBM, Visier, PeopleAnswers, and others now provide turnkey BigData analytics using internal HR data. These companies help you understand the characteristics of high performers to help with management tools, better hiring practices, and pre-hire assessment. Think about these as “off the shelf” analysis tools to help you understand your workforce in detail…
Where Will This Go?
So where is all this going? Should we be worried? Will your employer know so much that you’ll have to hire a lawyer and read your employment contract to decide who owns your data?
Ultimately this is a very good thing. Remember that employers already have plenty of data about all of us: our job history, employment history, salary, performance evaluations, and when we clocked in and out each day. If companies start using this information to improve the workplace, we’ll see better management, better hiring, and improved workplace conditions. Already, Talent Analytics projects are becoming one of the biggest new focus areas for HR.
Should we worry about employees “Yelping” about their boss online? No. Let’s face it – today people can complain publicly about almost anything, so bringing transparency into the workplace in a more structured way lets management and leadership act more quickly to resolve problems. Hate your boss? Pretty soon you won’t have to clam up and just deal with it in silence.
I know these tools will raise many issues about data ownership and workplace privacy. But we already give up much privacy to companies like Google and Facebook so in most cases these tools are just extensions of our consumer life every day.
Our research shows that transparency in HR is almost always a good thing. Old fashioned employment practices like annual performance appraisals (given by managers), secret lists of high-potentials, and politically charged talent reviews which lead to secret salary decisions can be made more accurate with a little more “light” from the outside world.
Not to Quantified Self: Meet the Quantified Employee. Today’s 21st Century workplace is getting more instrumented, more transparent, and more data driven every day.