The rewards (and risks) of people analytics

The rewards (and risks) of people analytics

People analytics – equal parts data science and behavioral science – is paving the way for organizations to understand their workforce better.

In fact, 84% of organizations see people analytics as important or very important, according to Deloitte’s 2018 survey of human capital trends worldwide. Overall, more than seven in 10 say they are implementing analytics projects to aid in their decision-making.

Part of this surge in interest can be attributed to the fact that investments in this field are paying off.  

“Big HR investments in people analytics are yielding many new sources of data,” Deloitte said.

Those leading the way are digging up hard data to explore questions about their workforce that would otherwise go unexamined without accurate and relevant insights.

Answers to people management questions – such as which employees are likely to be a flight risk, which ones are emerging as leaders in the organization, or which ones are disconnected from their teams – could easily be tainted with the manager’s bias. But by revealing patterns in datasets, analytics can unravel the truth about people.

Organizations that have reached people analytics maturity today monitor data across platforms and analyze a variety of metrics – from employees’ email traffic and social media profiles to their physical activity, moods, and sentiments.

With so much information being processed, however, industry analysts are pointing out the dangers of collecting too much employee data.

“The reality is, we’ll just have too much data to handle between the Internet of Things and all the sensors that might be in an organization,” said Helen Kontozopoulos, co-founder and director of the Innovation Lab at the University of Toronto Department of Computer Science. She recommends being transparent to employees about data policies.

In the era of GDPR, businesses need “security safeguards, transparency measures, and clear communication around their people data efforts – or they could trigger employee privacy concerns and backlash over data abuse,” Deloitte said.

 “[Organizations] raise growing risks and ethical questions about data security, transparency, and the need to ask permission,” the analysts reported.

Kontozopoulos agrees – companies need to ask their employees: “Are you comfortable with this information being out there? That’s what’s important.”


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