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How to get the most from employee data

Written 01 May, 2019, 4 minutes to read

Until recently, companies were only concerned about how to use customer data. But in our new era of “employee experience” – with its focus on supporting and enabling every individual in a company – employee data presents a huge opportunity for companies. A swathe of employee tracking tools can help you improve employee engagement, project communication, workflows and company-wide productivity. You just need to go about collecting and using employee data in a way that respects and enables the individual. Here’s how to get the most from employee data – the responsible way.

The value of employee data

More and more companies are collecting huge amounts of employee data that, when leveraged correctly, can be used to gain serious competitive advantage. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, employee data has already been used successfully to boost productivity, keep people engaged, discover the best candidates, enhance decision-making, make employees happier and improve company culture.

With more tracking tools and a greater appreciation of the value of data, it’s now easier than ever to turn this data into actionable insights. It can help you foresee when employees will leave, how you can attract the right type of candidate and, once you’ve hired them, how you can keep them happy enough to stay with your company. The benefits of employee data are no longer an untapped secret: a recent report found that 82% of companies planned to intensify their use of employee data.

Using employee data properly can give you powerful insights into your team, the ways they work, and, if you’re hoping to save some pennies, help protect your budget too. The majority of companies already track their employees’ work status (e.g. full time, freelance, etc.), attendance records, raise history, length of employment and performance record to identify which employees suit leadership roles, but there is a ton more that can be collected and applied.

Crucially, it isn’t just the companies that stand to gain, either – it’s employees themselves. Data tracking can actually enable employees, helping them master their own schedules, processes, productivity and workflows… but only if they can access and use their own data, and feel secure doing so. We simply can’t use employee data successfully without adopting the right approach: using data courteously and holistically, while respecting individual employee privacy.

How to use employee data responsibly

Using employee data successfully hinges on one crucial thing: trust. It’s imperative that when collecting employee data, you lead with trust; few things poison a positive company culture or sour employee experience faster than feeling distrusted or spied on. A recent survey found that while 90% of employees were prepared to let their company collect and use their data, there were caveats.

The first was that employees wanted assurance that their data would be used responsibly and their concerns would be taken seriously; the second was that they themselves wanted to be able to benefit from their data in some way. And, thankfully, it’s very easy for them to do this – but first it’s essential you clearly explain why certain data is being collated, and how they will benefit from it.

Ensure you communicate that, far from working against them, employee data offers people huge opportunity to become more independent and self-sufficient, as masters of their own workflow. Take productivity data for example: many employees are shocked to discover how long certain tasks really take, and use that information to work smarter. Private activity tracking has also been used to help employees show their management how extra work often creeps into their schedule, helping protect against burnout and work dissatisfaction. Ultimately, using data enables positive self-analysis – it’s impossible to review and refine your performance if you can’t see where you’re struggling.

Finding the right employee tracking tools

But you also need to ensure you pick a robust tracking tool that actually safeguards and applies that trust. Regrettably, too many employee tracking tools on the market support a one-way power flow, designed to let managers scrutinise staff behavior minute-by-minute. Often, employees do not have an automatic right to see the data that has been collected about them, since it becomes the property of the employer.

This approach completely undermines and limits the value of employee data. To track data and maintain a healthy and open work culture, employees must always have agency over what they choose to share with employers. Employee data tracking tools should never invade individual privacy or compromise professional dignity; every employee must feel comfortable and in control. After all, it’s their data.

This right to privacy is one we’ve built into the very core of our product, Timely. It automatically tracks the time employees actively spend in every desktop app, as well as their GPS location on mobile, to create a fully accurate virtual memory of their working day. But all this data is completely private to them alone; their managers can only see the information the employee has chosen to log in their public timesheet. Ultimately, we want our tool to be used to enable people and help them learn about how they work – not to micromanage, snoop or do anything equally uncool.

Whichever tracking tools you do decide to use, ensure they are designed to defend each employee’s privacy and data ownership – and make sure employees themselves are aware of that. Employees should be able to access and delete the information stored on them, whenever they want. Avoid platforms which talk about taking screenshots, tracking mouse movements or using geo-tagging; if you don’t trust employees to actually do their job, why did you hire them?

Employee time tracking doesn’t have to be creepy! There is an alternative

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