Watch out for people analytics

What makes employees happier in the workplace? How come some individuals are more creative, others better leaders, while some more predisposed to adopt change?

Traditionally managers mainly relied on their powers of observation or surveys and interviews  to determine the answers to these questions.

With the explosion of information from a wide array of sources, a number of organizations are turning to big data analytics to shed greater light on workplace behaviour. This practice is being called “people analytics.”

The data used in people analytics come not only from emails, SMS and Web browsing habits but can also emanate from the a preponderance of sensors embedded in technology we wear or keep close at hand (such as mobile phones, handheld scanners and identification badges and access fobs) and those in our environment such us access sensors, and surveillance cameras or even the company photocopier.

Data from the virtual world combined with information collected through face-to—face contact with individuals, are used as transformative tools by some organizations.

For instance, Bank of America analyzed its call centre operations to alter employee break time patters in order to improve performance and cut the centre’s turnover rate.

Another firm, Cubist Pharmaceutics improved employee interaction and sales numbers by simply centralized coffee areas after it found out that the office had far too many coffee machines.

Of course there is the danger that people analytics could be mishandled and the data gathering could end up being a threat to personal privacy.

One of the ways to avoid this is to make the data gathering process an opt-in program and ensure that the data culled preserves the anonymity of participants and that their personal information is not disseminated.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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