Even though employers see potential in monitoring employees, some are holding back, fearing employee backlash and mishandling of data. According to a recent survey by Accenture, even though 62% of executives said their companies are using new technologies to collect data on people — from the quality of work to safety and well-being — fewer than a third said they feel confident they are using the data responsibly.
The survey also showed that employees are indeed wary. More than half of the workers surveyed, or 64%, said that recent scandals over data privacy make them concerned that employee data might be at risk, too.
Eva Sage-Gavin, who leads Accenture's talent and organization practice globally, said that employers have two ways of building trust. First, by giving employees more control over their data in exchange for sharing their data. Second, by creating a corporate culture of shared responsibility.
"We've seen that [workforce data] could boost revenue by 6.4%. This has encouraged workers to be open to responsible use of data, but they want to know that they will get benefits and return on their time," she said. Sage-Gavin noted that the survey found that an overwhelming majority of workers, or 92%, said they would be open to sharing data if it helped them improve their performance.
Through trial and error some early adopters of workforce data analysis are finding ways to use data without alienating employees. When BMC Software wanted to track employee email and calendar info, it did so on an opt-in basis and gave employees personalized feedback on how to improve time management. The company also used aggregated data to relieve workflow bottlenecks and signs of overwork.
Companies should explain what they are doing, said Tien, adding, "There's nothing more prone to create bad feelings than if [employees] feel like they are being subjected to surveillance and don't know what it's covering and how it is being used."
Accenture advises companies to "co-own" the data with employees and create policies and frameworks to ensure the data is being used responsibly and ethically. The technology is advancing quickly, but it will take longer for companies to figure out how to do it.