Personal analytics: the future of workforce productivity

Personal analytics can improve productivity, performance and engagement

Personal analytics can target key underlying causes of poor productivity, performance, business relationship/personal issues – and help effect more meaningful change for individuals, writes Rob Scott

Generally, when we think about analytics we envisage the interrogation of heaps of data to unearth insights which help inform future decision making. This is correct of course, and there is significant value in building analytics capability within your HR or business environment, particularly as leading HR functions move towards evidence-based decision making and shift their raison d’être to improving business productivity rather than the traditional HR process optimisation.

Australia is not immune to the mostly sluggish productivity epidemic seen around the globe, and it is pertinent to ask why this is the case when we’ve had a plethora of technology such as mobile phones, collaboration platforms, robotics and AI thrust upon us, which are all supposed to improve our productivity levels to a rate far greater than the current reality.

There are many reasons underpinning this dilemma, such as the impact of organisational transformation programs, low levels of employee engagement, and the desire to become digitally enabled, yet retain a historic process status quo. The culmination of these root causes result in many employees feeling overwhelmed. When this happens, employees become even more disengaged, stressed and less effective in their roles – it becomes a vicious cycle.

“There is such as thing as healthy narcissism and it helps maintains positive self-esteem and self-confidence”

Enter personal analytics
The one thing we know about human behaviour from the likes of Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut is that interest in things becomes stronger the more it relates to oneself. There is such as thing as healthy narcissism and it helps maintains positive self-esteem and self-confidence. In a world of information overload, we have a better chance of changing employee behaviour when we create a direct link to the individual. Personal analytics does this.

Some of you may be thinking it is already being done through processes such as performance appraisals and one-on-one feedback. This is true and the migration towards continuous performance discussion is certainly helping, but there is significantly more we can do when we consider the type of data we have in our HR, talent, WFM, enterprise collaboration and other business solutions.

By analysing an individual’s data and making it visible to the employee, rather than only sharing it with managers, your organisation can impact key underlying areas of poor productivity or performance such as stress and psychological health issue, business relationship issues and personal issues. Personal analytics can also help employees make informed decisions and trigger actions that positively impact productivity.

Some Australian companies are already sharing basic personal analytics via apps or self-service portals such as “Days to your next pay”, “Leave day balances” or “You need to complete X”, but these initiatives were cost driven actions to reduce call volumes to HR.

“Personal analytics can also help employees make informed decisions and trigger actions that positively impact productivity”

The value of personal analytics
Here are a few examples to illustrate the value of personal analytics:

  1. A blue-collar worker starts periodically clocking in 10 minutes later than normal, the analytics engine picks up a pattern and highlights this to the employee via his PA App or dashboard. It also suggests discussing the matter with his manager or someone in HR.
  2. An employee has been working above average overtime. The analytics engine correlates this to the employees leave balance, which is high, and confirms that very little personal leave has been taken in the last 6 months. The PA engine triggers a “fatigue” caution to her PA app and suggests the employee considers taking some time off. Her manager has already pre-approved time-off for 5 days.
  3. A ‘work-from-home’ employee, who typically logs onto the corporate systems by 7:30am and is an active contributor to the Employee soeial network, suddenly changes her pattern of behaviour. The PA engine lets her know and asks if everything is okay. The engine prompts the manager to give the employee a call.

“By making it visible to the employee, you change the dynamics of dealing with the matter, and empower the employee”

These are simple examples, but they show the power of analysing individual data compared to looking at trends and averages across the workforce. By making it visible to the employee, you change the dynamics of dealing with the matter, and empower the employee. Greater transparency underpins successful digital organisations. You could also argue that a good manager would spot these deviations anyway, but managers are not immune to being overwhelmed themselves and could easily miss the signs.

Personal analytics: 3 key takeaways

  • Data Analytics is typically done using large data-sets and focusses on extracting trends and correlations which are used to inform strategic decisions. They don’t focus on the individual.
  • Many employees are feeling overwhelmed in the workplace and productivity has not improved significantly over the last 10 years despite the influx of new technology designed to improve productivity levels.
  • We know that human beings are more inclined to react to something when there is a direct link to them. Personal analytics creates this catalyst.

Image source: iStock