How it can lead to fairer decision making if done correctly

‘A lot of how employee monitoring technology will develop comes down to trust,’ said data science company Profusion’s CEO Natalie Cramp. But, she added, this trust was ‘fragile.’

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According to a study 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 their employers.

Profusion surveyed 1,000 workers to find out about attitudes towards employee monitoring. It found that a majority (61pc) of employees are comfortable with the idea of ​​employee 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. 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,” said Natalie Cramp, CEO, Profusion. “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 revealed that employers were not currently inclined to make the data they collected on their workers available to them, 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 was “fragile.”

Natalie Cramp headshot.  Natalie is the CEO of Profusion, standing in a living room environment that is out of focus.

Natalie Cramp, CEO, Profusion. Image: Profusion

“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. 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 it reveals can be used to improve employee experiences in the workplace. This is particularly true of diversity and inclusion policy.

Currently, only a very small minority of companies use HR data to its full potential. 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
– NATALIE CRAMP

The figure of 72pc in favorite of applying data to HR decisions over other methods rose to 80pc for BAME employees and 82pc for workers with disabilities. A majority (68pc) of all 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 diversity and inclusion policies, particularly around pay. A majority of employees (71pc) believe that ethnicity pay gap reporting should be mandatory. More than three quarters (76pc) think disability pay gap reporting should be mandatory. A similar majority agreed that executive and employee pay ratios should be published.

According to Cramp, “Currently, only a very small minority of companies use HR data to its full potential. 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 said there was “a clear opportunity for companies to rethink how they approach HR – for example, by making their next HR team hire a data specialist.”

When SiliconRepublic.com asked Cramp why employers who want to improve their workplaces through employee monitoring should hire data specialists, she had this to say.

“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. 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 program 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, she said.

The reality is that data has now become so fundamental to HR that most businesses need to act now to upskill their HR departments… Acting now will enable a company’s HR department to evolve in line with advancements in data science and changing working practices
– NATALIE CRAMP

She 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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