I’m sure after my talk last week many of you are hovering somewhere on the creepy/cool borderline when it comes to how Human Resources uses your employee data (and greater web footprint). I would like to stress that your data is primarily used to improve the employee experience from talent acquisition through termination (what’s referred to as the “Employee Life Cycle”) and can help improve process efficiencies and cut costs. Just to be clear, this isn’t a 1984 type situation for 99.999999% of companies and the vast majority of data is viewed on an aggregate level to protect individual employees privacy. Remember, the goal of HR is not to be the wardens or principals overseeing employee actions, but rather help…
It’s important for me to start this post off by reinforcing the notion that employees are HR’s top priority and that employee data is most frequently collected to HELP employees, not hurt or punish them. The reason for this is because I’m going to be writing about a very hot trend in HR called People Analytics (aka Workforce Analytics aka Talent Analytics aka HR Analytics). So what is People Analytics exactly? People Analytics is a lot like what I discussed last week in class: it’s the use of HR and organizational data, as well as data from external sources and other technology to develop actionable insights to improve workforce planning. But even though this has been a bit of a buzzword in the HR community for nearly a decade, People Analytics has huge business implications that can cut across different fields and industries.
An explosion of People/Workforce/HR Analytics firms have popped up over the last few years to assist companies with these efforts. Prof. Kane actually gave us an example of a People Analytics firm project about a month ago in class that Humanyze conducted. To summarize, through the use of GPS wearable devices and productivity tracking (I hope you can see why I started this post the way I did now, right?), Humanyze discovered that employees who sat at lunch tables of 5 were more productive than employees who sat at lunch tables of 3. The hypothesis? That those sitting at the 5 person lunch tables interacted with more people and thus it improved employees’ ability and opportunities to collaborate. The company tested out the hypothesis by converting all lunch tables at one of their locations to include 5 people and sure enough the office it was implemented in saw an increase in employee productivity across the board. How cool is that?!
Humanyze has catapulted this concept as a standard practice within their greater Workforce Analytics product offering. They state that by Optimizing your Workspace clients can “create physical and virtual work environments that benefit people, performance, and productivity.” Given that most people carry around a GPS tracker with them 24/7, is it such a stretch for employees to be willing to wear a magic band at work so we can study their movements to improve productivity, collaboration, convenience, and (most importantly) make the office an even better place to work? Personally, I’m very much a “Sign me up right now!” person, but how would you feel about it?
Ok, so maybe you’re not a “Track my movements for the sake of science” person (to each their own), but how do you feel about your computer activity? One way many companies have begun to tip their toes in the water of People Analytics is through Microsoft’s Workforce Planning tool. The Microsoft Office suite is by far the most popular enterprise software application ever developed. Microsoft 365 now offers even more analytical capabilities given its integrated shared drives that connects users across its applications (Word, Teams, Excel, Outlook, etc.). Many users see this individually through the MyAnalytics digest emails, inline suggestions, and Insights Outlook add-in. For those living under a rock (or in the Google Suite), here’s an example of the MyAnalytics digest emails:
So how does this relate to Microsoft’s Workforce Analytics platform exactly? Well, if we know Microsoft is capable of gathering this data to help individual’s improve at work, do you really believe this data couldn’t be repurposed to help a business gain insights into the ways employees interact with each other, conduct their work, or spend their work time online? THIS is where Microsoft’s Workforce Analytics platform comes in. The platform aggregates employees data so that organizations can run top-down analysis on employees online collaboration habits to better understand network patterns and behaviors. The major selling point for this platform (other than that most firm’s already use the 365 Suite so it’s a simple addition from an implementation perspective) is its emphasis on not only how employees spend their time, but who they spend it with. With the vast majority of companies working remotely during the pandemic, the acceptance of more hybrid office models, and the increasing computerization of office work in general, employees online networks and behaviors can be just as telling, or even more telling, than what can be viewed in “real-life” by managers.
FYI just because your organization has MyAnalytics as part of their Microsoft 365 package, does not mean they also have Microsoft’s Workforce Analytics platform. However, they could and generally speaking would be under no legal obligation to inform you since anything located on a work computer/email/product application is the property of the firm (so I suggest trying to keep your personal and work emails/laptops/etc. as separate as possible!). While platforms to help understand the network effects and habits of remote workforces has exploded during the pandemic, I don’t see it or the greater People Analytics trend dying down anytime soon. I hope if you’ve learned anything from my presentation and this blog post is that the HR of today and of the future will take and use as much of your data as possible to improve employee operations. However, please keep in mind it’s typically done to make you a better worker and have a better work experience (not to be a creepy stalker or get you in trouble for buying that pair of shoes when you should have been finishing up that spreadsheet your boss asked for).