‘A lot of how employee monitoring technology will develop comes down to trust,’ says Natalie Cramp of data science company Profusion. But this trust is ‘fragile’.
According to a survey by data science company Profusion, almost three-quarters (72pc) of employees believe that applying data to HR decisions could be better than the practices currently used by employers.
Profusion surveyed 1,000 workers to find out about attitudes towards employee monitoring. It found that 61pc of employees are comfortable with the idea of monitoring, so long as they are able to see the data their employer collects on them.
“Many people believe that better use of data in HR could level the playing field and lead to fairer decision-making,” said Natalie Cramp, CEO of Profusion.
“As a result, the vast majority of employees are actually comfortable with HR teams using more advanced analytics, as long as it is transparent and they are given an element of control. The task for employers is to ensure that they educate their workforce on their data rights, create transparent and clear processes, and ensure they act responsibly and fairly.”
Crucially, 81pc of respondents said that data must be made available to employees to enable them to challenge any interpretations. The survey suggested that employers are not currently inclined to make the data they collect on workers available, with just 26pc of employees certain they were provided with a copy of data in advance of performance reviews.
Only a quarter said they definitely felt empowered to challenge the interpretation of the data. One in four employees were unaware or unsure about whether data was being used to monitor or assess their performance.
Cramp told SiliconRepublic.com that “a lot of how employee monitoring technology will develop comes down to trust”. But, she said, this trust is “fragile.”
“If employers use technology to intrude on privacy, create hostile police state-style environments or make decisions without adequate transparency and due process – employees will quickly turn against monitoring tech,” she said.
“It’s up to employers to use monitoring technology in an intelligent, open and constructive way. This means engaging employees, educating them on how it works, making them aware of their rights and building processes that enable full engagement.”
If employee monitoring is done ethically by HR teams, then the data can be used to improve employee experiences in the workplace. This could come into play when it comes to diversity and inclusion policies.
‘Implemented correctly, a data-driven HR function can play a critical role in improving the wellbeing of staff, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and also radically enhance business performance’
– NATALIE CRAMP
The figure of 72pc in favour of applying data to HR decisions rose to 80pc for BAME employees and 82pc for workers with disabilities. Overall, 68pc of employees agreed that using data is important to achieving an effective diversity and inclusion agenda.
Data monitoring can also be useful for workers who want to keep an eye on their employer’s policies around around pay. A majority of employees surveyed (71pc) said ethnicity pay gap reporting should be mandatory, while 76pc said disability pay gap reporting should be mandatory. A similar majority agreed that executive and employee pay ratios should be published.
“Currently, only a very small minority of companies use HR data to its full potential,” Cramp said. “Implemented correctly, a data-driven HR function can play a critical role in improving the wellbeing of staff, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and also radically enhance business performance and efficiency.”
She added that there is “a clear opportunity for companies to rethink how they approach HR” – for example, by making their next HR team hire a data specialist.
“Data is only as good as the insights you can extract from it. Without data specialists, businesses can miss critical information hidden in the data or, worse, end up learning the wrong lessons, leading to bad decision-making,” Cramp said.
“Data can be a very powerful tool in enabling diversity and inclusion because it removes a lot of the unconscious bias that holds back many workers and causes institutional problems at a number of companies.”
However, she cautioned that “without the right skills to build, monitor and manage a data-driven diversity and inclusion programme” there is the risk that it can cause more damage than good. Algorithms that have been designed to make recruitment fairer can sometimes do the opposite.
‘Acting now will enable a company’s HR department to evolve in line with advancements in data science and changing working practices’
– NATALIE CRAMP
Cramp urged companies not to be complacent about leveraging data insights to inform their HR policies.
“The reality is that data has now become so fundamental to HR that most businesses need to act now to upskill their HR departments. Some skills like being able to interpret data need to become universal, other specialist skills can be used in the short term with partners, or hired in-house if the need grows.
“Acting now will enable a company’s HR department to evolve in line with advancements in data science and changing working practices. If companies move too slowly, they risk falling behind their competitors and then having to quickly play catch up which may ultimately end up being more costly and disruptive.”
Finally, Cramp said that HR needs to “keep the human element to provide safeguards and help maintain trust” in any monitoring tech.
“It needs to be a reciprocal relationship that benefits both employer and employee. Without trust, monitoring technology will quickly become very unpopular and this will severely curtail its adoption.”
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