Data analytics: employee empowerment or surveillance

Caroline Lewis
Caroline Lewis
Sales Director

Data analytics: employee empowerment or surveillance

As the pandemic unleashed havoc upon workplaces and many staff were forced to work from home, leaders had no choice but to choose progressive technologies to keep their businesses afloat.

And as Unified Collaboration & Communications (UC&C) technologies have fast become the norm, so too has a different approach to working – with flexible and hybrid models proving more popular than ever before.

In a bid to facilitate this transition in the longer term, data analytics have proved an essential component for many businesses – who wish to continue to offer flexibility, while retaining an understanding of their teams’ productivity, engagement and wellbeing.

Our sales director, Caroline Lewis, recently caught up with Top Business Technology to discuss how businesses have adapted to this new era and to determine whether data analytics amounts to employee empowerment or surveillance…

With the arrival of the pandemic, the working world changed forever. In fact, it’s been purported that business technology evolved more in a year than in the previous decade, as employees were armed with laptops and the facility to work from anywhere, via almost any device.

As hybrid working continues to take precedence and staff strive to find their own balance, so too do the organisations that have equipped team members with a previously unparalleled degree of autonomy. And this takes trust.

Caroline Lewis, sales director at data analytics organisation Tiger, explains how businesses have adapted to this new era.

Adopting technologies to accommodate fresh ways of working

As the events of the past 18 months unfolded, the majority of firms have kept in touch via unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) platforms such as Microsoft Teams. The speed at which this facility was rolled out and adopted among workers was nothing short of astounding. A completely new concept to many, which would previously have taken a period of bedding in, training courses, and feedback, was implemented and embraced within a matter of weeks.

And there is no doubt that this process was what kept thousands of businesses afloat, throughout the world, as entire workforces were given no choice but to work from home for prolonged periods. In fact, in many instances, workers were forced to take increased control and responsibility over their workloads and responsibilities. Meanwhile, leaders faced various operational challenges as they adapted to managing their teams from a distance.

Now, as many companies begin to adopt a hybrid working approach in light of new Covid-19 variants — leaders must take stock of how to move forward, with a host of fresh ways to keep in touch considered an essential component of a company’s armoury.

A delicate balance

Hybrid working will remain one of the top considerations for businesses – who must assess whether this approach will work in the long term, to analyse how it will be implemented and managed, and to decide what additional tools they need in place to make it work.

And as the line between the workplace and home becomes increasingly blurred, organisations must implement new processes to monitor this — to the benefit of businesses and colleagues — to pick up on any nuances and keep abreast of their team’s wellbeing.

It will, no doubt, prove to be a nerve-wracking time for many. Some leaders will feel overwhelmed and out of control, with staff operating from kitchen tables and home offices, and enjoying the new-found flexibility that the pandemic has invoked. Meanwhile, other team members may feel disengaged, unable to retain the focus — or to enjoy the camaraderie — that the workplace once offered.

And with ‘the great resignation’ now a nationally debated topic — and job vacancies in some industries at an all-time high — it’s time that firms prioritised understanding how the pandemic has affected their teams, as well as their levels of service, and begun unlocking insight that could prove vital to their future success.

Don’t operate in the dark

In their haste to keep afloat, many organisations didn’t look beyond the immediate need to keep their company running. And understandably so. But as disruption continues to impact operations, with remote and hybrid working continuing for many, leaders needn’t feel out of touch.

Now is the time to prioritise how these platforms can become a permanent and useful feature, which increases efficiency, insight, and outcomes — both for teams and amongst a company’s client base. ‘Plugging in’ intelligent analytics tools which increase and contextualise the data available is just one of the ways that organisations can keep abreast of any employee trends, or areas of engagement and disengagement, amongst their teams.

For example, businesses can gain an understanding of how well video calls are working as a meeting tool. If the connection is constantly dropping, this could impact upon productivity and client satisfaction – jeopardising both colleague wellbeing and customer retention. But with the context provided by analytics tools, organisations can gain valuable oversight which will help to inform strategy moving forward. 

Not only will this knowledge empower leaders to ensure they’re offering the correct training, investing in the right technologies, and spending their time and money where it matters, but it will also ensure that hard work is visible, progression is measurable, and that targets are considered and achievable. All of this will contribute to ensuring that team members feel happy and supported in their employment.

Encourage ‘buy in’ across the board

Historically, the perception of analytics has proved controversial. Employees may worry that their activities are being ‘spied on’ or that their privacy is being invaded. But while these tools do indeed unlock relevant data – their main aim is to identify patterns of engagement, establish what is and isn’t working, and improve efficiency all round. It’s about empowering employees, not making them feel as if ‘Big Brother’ is watching them.

And this is just as beneficial to colleagues as it is to companies. Those intermittent connectivity issues which cause frustrating delays and video calls to glitch will be picked up, removing some of the hurdles which make achieving an employee’s goals, and indeed their targets, more easily attainable, as a result.

Just as any struggles can be picked up and supported, progress and growth can be identified and celebrated — making for unbiased observations based on data, rather than simply relying upon opinions which can be heavily influenced by external factors. Staff can use this data to support their own progression, pinpointing strengths, along with any areas for development or training, in order to create a robust case for career advancement.

And where any hesitancy remains, a transparent approach will help to remedy this. Introducing intuitive dashboards, for example, will bring data to the forefront for everyone. Once team members can clearly see what the strategic goals are, and how their contributions are being measured, in many cases it will address any cynicism and, instead, motivate them to seek improvement.

Data analytics tools are not designed to snoop but, rather, are a key component which enables businesses to remain informed regardless of the physical whereabouts of their team members. With the ability to look out for patterns, identify difficulties, and address what’s working well, teams can, collectively, strive for success.”