Be Informed Not Afraid. Don’t let Big Data Scare You.
This post is a part of my thinking around the concepts I wrote about in my latest book, “THE DECODED COMPANY: KNOW YOUR TALENT BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS.” You can see some of my other thoughts about big data, organizational culture and talent management HERE.
Data Is Everyone’s Responsibility
Last week, I had the opportunity to keynote the IT Directors Summit and HR Forum at a very interesting venue: a cruise ship. Getting there was an adventure, my very own version of trains, planes and automobiles! I took the Eurostar from Paris to London followed by the Gatwick Express to the airport. I few to Guernsey, a small island in the UK that is apparently also a phenomenal tax shelter. Finally, I boarded a small tender that took me aboard the Arcadia.
I spoke about the importance of understanding the possibility of analytics – not just from a technical standpoint but from a strategic and cultural perspective as well. Too often, many people assume that Big Data (or not-so-big data as we call it) is outside of their job function – and this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is this: data is everyone’s responsibility.
As an employee it is up to you to be informed and engaged with your organization’s data policies. We must each be accountable for own data footprint and that means asking for clarity and transparency when needed.
- Do you know exactly what data your employers are tracking?
- Do you know how they collect it?
- What do they do with it?
The Vital Role of Transparency: The Corporate Public Record
Many employers cover some of these policies in handbooks but it never hurts to get extra clarifications. For example, many organizations use swipe cards for security purposes. At my co-authors’ company, Klick, the door swipe data is used to track your location and the number of steps you take – information that has been very transparently communicated and easy for people to access and understand. Klick has taken the time to explain to their employees exactly what purpose they have in mind for the data: in this case the number of steps is used to foster friendly competition between colleagues to see who can take the most steps and encourage a culture where people make healthy choices by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
As an employer or manager, you must make sure you asking the right questions about any new data initiatives to make sure they are ethical, transparent, and helping to build a positive work culture. In The Decoded Company, we outline a set of guidelines to help executives assess the ethicalness of their policies. We stress the importance of being open and transparent about the data being collected and introduce the concept of the Corporate Public Record – job-focused metrics that can be used to measure performance without invading an employee’s privacy. Too often, we let technology or a desire for more data blind us to the cultural ramification of introducing invasive data policies that end up breaking trust and damaging the working environment.
Pairing Culture and Analytics Is Key
Klick has been very clear about not using data for punitive purposes. The swipe card data that tracks when you get into work and when you leave are never used against you in performance reviews or reprimands. However, it is used to help Klick’s managers make better informed decisions. For example, if an employee has stayed late several nights in a row, Klick’s analytical system will ping their manager to let them know there might be a workflow issue. The purpose of this data is to help establish organizational culture norms: Klick values work/life balance and the company does not want to see employees staying late. This information is used to start a conversation that can uncover an underlying issue such as the need to hire more staff to handle demand. It enables managers to spot an employee who is at risk of being burned out and overworked before disaster strikes.
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