Opinion

Employers focus on measuring worker productivity

Synopsis: 
Employers are using more aggressive technology to measure how staff spend their time - Oxen Park's Geoff Booth shares his thoughts.

According to the Wall Street Journal...

"Employers are using more aggressive technology to measure how staff spend their time. Twenty-two per cent of employers based in Europe and North America say they collect employee-movement data, 17% collect work-computer usage data, 13% collect employee fitness data and 7% monitor the content of employee emails, according to a 2018 Gartner survey.

Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, says mining workplace data “can really tap into sources of growth and improve productivity,” but cautions "it can also be a minefield” if not used responsibly. Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research for Gartner, thinks so-called “nudge” technology can help boost productivity but says reliable conclusions from the data can be difficult to discern.

The Wall Street Journal further looks at how employers are mining the data their workers generate "to figure out what they’re up to, and with whom." US pharmaceutical wholesaler McKesson worked with people analytics firm TrustSphere last year to find out why some teams had higher turnover. Data on the sender, recipient and timing of over 130m emails, but not message content, from more than 20,000 US employees was analysed. “The beauty of what we’re getting out of this is information to make our teams function better,” said R.J. Milnor, vice president, workforce planning and analytics at McKesson."

Geoff Booth from Oxen Park does not doubt if you look long enough at this data you’ll find correlations. “If you torture data long enough it will confess to anything” - Ronald Coase Nobel Prize winning Economist.

However, he says he’s yet to see to longitudinal research that proves causation. Measuring activity, or worst still where employees spend time,  is not measuring outcomes with commercial value (his definition of productivity).