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Using data to improve performance and productivity – and balancing it with employee privacy

Talk of “Big Data” is everywhere – but the field of HR is one of the last few holdouts that isn’t rapidly using analytics to improve processes. Talent Management programs (specifically performance reviews, appraisals & employee recognition) still rely on inputs from very few people; it’s either just the immediate boss or the boss plus 2-3 colleagues. Add the recency effect (ref. Samarth’s last piece) and it just compounds these problems.

This is going to change quite rapidly because the startups that use data analytics to help their clients have started looking within and realised that they could be running a much better, faster & stronger organisation through the power of analytics.

An employee stands to gain control over his career, through the use of technology and data in performance management. Now, let’s look at how better use of data will help organisations:

  1. Improving employee recognition and review systems by adding more data points and contributors. Data will allow a 360-degree view in ways that have been impossible till now. A good system that allows for recording of immediate feedback will make appraisal systems more reliable, transparent and trustworthy.
  2. Driving hiring and career decision-making. Data-driven insights will enable decisions on promotions, career progression, skill set enhancement, critical talent retention, culture fitment and value alignment. These are “riddles” that will be demystified with the power of analytics.
  3. Identifying star performers. Ensuring that organisations identify A-level talent, ‘the stars’ who drive the company forward, is vital to success. In the words of Aditya Berlia, Co-promoter of the Apeejay Stya Group, “A-level people work faster, they have a fast learning curve, they’re more productive, they’re the most committed, and they have the biggest impact.” Data based inferences will help an organisation improve the selection capabilities, i.e. identify and onboard more star performers from outside & within the system.
  4. Integrating different systems to build one common view. People Management in large organisations is highly fragmented – recognition, employee engagement, performance management, comp & ben etc. sit with different teams for the required expertise and focus however, they end up becoming silos of operations. A seamless platform would present one view of the organisation with multiple inputs to answer questions such as, “Who deserves my ‘Performer of the Year’ award?”
  5. Making the company more productive and dynamic, focusing more on solving problems in an agile manner than on building hierarchies and departments. Once employee data is readily and clearly available to managers across the organisation, they will quickly assemble teams for projects based on skills and project requirements, rather than building a hierarchical structure around it.

Technology will have a significant impact on the structure and organisation of the workplace of the future; a topic for another article because it needs a deeper dive.

Wait, so much data – what about privacy concerns?

Yes, that’s a lot of data, and we’ve seen in the recent past that people aren’t exactly super careful with others’ personal information (Mr Zuckerberg, we know you’re reading this, and yes, we’re referring to you. Also, we’ve already bought those blue shoes – you can stop showing us their ads now.)

Awareness of privacy norms is increasing and as an increasing number of millennials join the workforce, the expectations that their personal data is safe with the company is paramount. The organisation of the future will have to balance the need for transparent & accessible information-based system with the employees’ expectation of privacy. There will also be legal requirements & compliances and of course, a major data breach will be extremely painful for a company’s reputation. But first and foremost, it’s about basic respect for personal information! So how should companies look at securing data? Here are some simple guidelines:

  • Treat data as a liability, not an asset. An employee’s medical and career history isn’t the employer’s to use as he sees fit; it must be handled very carefully. Collect only what is needed; keep only as long as required and anonymise where individual information is not core.
  • Secure everything. No passwords in text files. No confidential information stored in Microsoft Excel. Strong data encryption. A strong firewall.
  • Restrict access on a need-to-know basis. The HR and Accounts team shouldn’t have open access to everyone’s complete info; there should be processes in place to allow access and access should be logged.

This is more a cultural shift than an IT exercise; privacy and security should be a habit, not a once-a-year mandatory training video that everyone plays in the background while checking Instagram on their phones. Over the next few years, we’re going to be collecting, processing & analysing much more data than ever before. It is our colleagues’ right to ask that we keep it safe.

If you are interested in implementing a cutting-edge talent management system, Call us today!

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