My small-group reading this week was about a company called “Humanyze,” which provides companies with behavioral data and analytics about the behaviors of its most successful (and unsuccessful) employees.
How does the technology work?
Humanyze gets this data from its “smart” ID cards, which incorporate microphones, Bluetooth, and infrared scanners in order to get data about employee behavior. Humanyze ensures the employees that the microphones are not used to monitor what you say, rather, they are used in order to monitor “how” communicate. By analyzing voice patterns and tones, Humanyze is able to detect things such as stress levels that may impede performance. Additionally, they track who you talk to (whether it is on your phone vs. to another colleague). Humanyze utilizes the Bluetooth capability of the technology to track “movement analytics” and monitor how physically active you are. The company assures its employees that it does not monitor things such as “how many times you go to the bathroom,” but is rather looking for movement patterns that indicate success in some employees. Finally, the company incorporates online interactions in order to study the emotional impact of different online communication platforms.
Studies have shown that communications at lunch are extremely important for a company’s success due to the collaboration between different people and groups that can occur. Humanyze, working for a client heavily reliant on code written by hundreds of different people, analyzed data that showed people sat in either groups of 3 or 11 at lunch. They didn’t understand why these numbers seemed to be so consistent until they actually went to the cafeterias; the tables seated either 4 or 12 people. They concluded that people weren’t going to lunch in groups of 11 or 12, but rather, it was a number of smaller groups sitting at the same table. Humanyze concluded that these larger tables, through the compaction of different groups into a single, larger group, allowed for better collaboration between employees. Ultimately, people who conversed at the larger tables with people outside of their “small” group, were more likely to talk to those people later in the week, encouraging collaboration. Humanyze noticed that “when this company had layoffs, everyone’s job satisfaction dropped, but it dropped 36% less for the people who sat in these bigger tables. Which is a lot.” This is the feedback that Humanyze can report to their clients, and ultimately, the client can improve these areas to result in more successful employees.
Our group discussion centered on whether we believed the technology and constant monitoring would be invasive for us, as employees. Although most of us said that we would opt-in to be monitored, each of us expressed concern for the tracking to become invasive. First, we discussed reasons why we might opt-in to the program. Personally, if my boss introduced this program to the office, it’s clear that he or she would like the employees to join the service. I would feel implicit pressure from my boss to join the program. Another interesting perspective was that we would feel “peer-pressure” to join the program. After some people start joining the program, we thought other people would be compelled to join so they will not become the outlier. As the majority of people opt-in, we thought those still outside the program could potentially be seen to be “hiding” something from the program, and would ultimately feel pressured to join in as well.
Although most people said they would opt-in for the program, all of us believed that the constant tracking was invasive in some form. Humanyze attempts to combat this feeling by ensuring the employees that 1) their boss will not see the data 2) what they say is not being recorded and 3) they don’t count the number of times you go to the bathroom. This was supposed to ensure the employees that the monitoring was not invasive. However, we didn’t like the idea that all of your data is being stored somewhere, and although Humanyze ensures that the boss won’t get the information, it’s still all being recorded and it is (to some extent) accessible.
I personally think Humanyze is a very interesting company and I think that they can provide great information about how employee behavior can lead to productivity. For example, discovering that employee satisfaction increased when they were included in a larger “lunch community” is great information that would not be attained if it weren’t for Humanyze. This information can lead to opportunities for management to make small tweaks in their company’s operations or environment that can drastically improve employee productivity and efficiency. Bank of American utilized Humanyze’s services to save millions of dollars, simply by changing up the company’s 20-minute break policy. Humanyze points out that you don’t need sweeping organizational changes to drastically improve employee productivity; oftentimes, “if you can find social levers that people are responsive to, and you can act on them in the right way, that’s where you get the really big results.”
Let me know in the comments what you think about the new technology? Would you opt-in? Under what conditions? And are you concerned about this becoming invasive?