Evolving trust in a big data workplace

March 29, 2018 Sam Dawson 0 Comment

We all know the thirst for big data in the workplace is almost unquenchable, particularly in the world of employee engagement and experience. Data can inform, help decision making and ultimately give a great overview of the interconnectedness of all things.

As with everything in life, however, there are pro’s and con’s of continuously collecting data from employees. Many organisations are either collecting this data actively (i.e. from some form of survey) or passively (automated text analytics, physical movement of staff and the mapping informal networks of influence, for example). Or they are doing both.  The fast moving world of using technology to understand employees has huge benefits for employers, but in today’s tech-enabled world, the issue of eroding trust is becoming more prevalent.

For immediate evidence of how using data in a way that surprises users can immediately impact trust, just look at the alleged practices between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Whatever the actual story behind the use of that information, the real world impact has been that trust from investors in the Facebook brand has fallen dramatically, with the Facebook share price falling sharply.

If used well and in the right context, the collection of workforce big data helps large companies understand at scale what’s going on. The word ‘scale’ is the important factor here. Many organisations are structured in a way that means there is an employee experience person or team with a remit of measuring and assessing the workforce. Because of the scale of many organisations, it’s not possible for someone with ‘employee engagement’ in their title to brush all employees with a little bit of engaged fairy dust. So, they design an information collection process that helps their structure at the top understand what’s going on and filter it down where needed.

So, in practice, that means large organisations run some sort of big employee survey. Because of the organisational scale and measurement process involved, already the notion of an ‘engaged workforce’ can feel a bit forced and artificial. It’s moved from a natural state driven locally by managers to a top down process with no real relationship or conversation involved. By the way, for advice on great conversations that develop positive cultures at work, do join https://conversation.network (it’s free!).

Organisations put huge efforts into collecting customer data and there is an understandable drive to collect as much data from employees too, stitch it together, and understand how to drive customer experience through people. It’s a noble intention and one I’ve done with many clients to show which best levers to pull to enhance a brand experience. However, technology in the workplace is evolving rapidly and as the saying goes ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’.

To keep the best of intentions on track (and if we view interactions at work like relationships – which they are), I suggest we need to find a balance between big data collection and translating that back to real world action. In that way we’ll continue to evolve employee trust in the process rather than eroding it. So, what are The Engaged Culture Company’s top 3 tips for making this happen?

  1. Stay connected to the end goal

What are you trying to ultimately achieve? Chances are it’s not to build a big database full of interesting linkages and statistics. More likely, you’re looking to influence employee behaviour, make cultural change and to impact customers positively. So, define your ultimate goal, develop a plan and a process and go for it. You’ll need a level of agility in your process as you navigate to the final destination, but don’t just endlessly collect data. It’s not how big your database is but what you do with it!

  1. Don’t let your job title put your thinking in a box

Ok, so you may be head of people analytics, employee engagement or employee experience. That’s great and it’s a critical role in driving success. But remember to make connections to business outcomes, people and processes outside of your remit. You’re in a strong position in your role to influence real organisational and cultural change. The person with a business minded view (rather than one with all the interesting statistics) will make the biggest impact and get noticed for the right reasons.

  1. Get back to the floor

At the end of the day, data analytics is all about making a positive change to organisations, and that often starts with knowing how the data will make an impact at a grass roots level. Where data works best, it is integrated into everyday working practices and organisations know how to squeeze the right information at the right time and push this to managers in the right way to make change. I’m always interested to see how well this is done with customer feedback data, and that in many cases, action from employee data is still some way behind.

So, three simple yet impactful ways to evolve employee trust in your employee survey processes. And a final thought. If you can sing Kaa’s song (the python from Disney’s The Jungle Book) to your employees and not make it sound creepy, you’re probably on the right side of big data management and evolving employee trust. Either that or you’re not very good at singing.

“Trust in me, just in me

Shut your eyes and trust in me

You can sleep safe and sound

Knowing I am around”

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