Great post – I’ve followed David Green for a while so great to see him get some engagement. I agree wholeheartedly with the “we can vs. we should” tension that exists in people analytics. Too often, the field tends to attract the types of folks who love pursuing new knowledge and findings…and often in the quest for seeking those revelations (particularly in a field that’s exciting because it’s rapidly innovating), they can forget that these data points are ultimately humans who might be uncomfortable with how they’re being monitored or studied!
That being said, while I appreciate Green’s sentiment that the answer is to be open with people analytics data (it does make for an easy-to-digest pithy blog post sentiment), I think the reality of transparency of people analytics data is complex. True, some level of transparency is important for accountability – it’s a sentiment that applies in almost every situation, and people analytics is no exception. To that end, I’m grateful for tools like MyAnalytics within Microsoft that are leaving employees feeling empowered with their data, and in doing so removing some of the anxieties of how it might be used because they themselves can see the output. That being said, I think only a certain degree of transparency is needed to get that buy-in…but ultimately, some other people analytics work may need time to be fully fleshed out before it’s made “transparent”. As an analogy, I’m thinking of the comment made today in class about how at teaching hospitals, mortality rates are far lower because medical professionals are monitored. With enough study, one can easily see how monitoring of professionals has led to a better outcome – but if you were to simply be transparent about the monitoring and studying from day 1, you’d have a revolt from the doctors! All this to say, I think there’s a world in which people analytics teams can experiment with some work on their own before they go through the change management of bringing it out in the open – they just need to keep in mind that their work ultimately will be brought into the open, and not a closed-door secret meant to empower the decision-making of only a few.
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed in this post! To turn this moment of us experimenting with a 100%-digital work environment is not the time to be playing with fire with new monitoring technologies – it’s too much to handle all at once from a change management perspective! That being said, I do think that it’s important to note that shifting to this totally-virtual reality will mark a paradigm shift in the way we think about virtual work. For a while companies have been trying to figure out 1) whether flexible/virtual work arrangements can be effective, and 2) if they are implemented, how to do them best. Understanding both of those requires a little experimenting with getting people to actually try working in a 100% virtual way – and this shift in work is the perfect opportunity to do so! I think as workers get more used to working virtually, we’re going to see innovations in the way people think about and handle their virtual work…and as such, people analytics practitioners will get new ideas of things to measure and new behaviors they’ll want to examine and experiment with. I, for one, am curious to see the innovation we’ll see come out of this time period.
Great post! Upon gut reaction, I harbor concerns (as it sounds like you might) around how effective we can be at realistically assessing an individual’s skills – especially soft skills, as the comment below brings up. For example, “project management” can mean wildly different things in one organization to the next. There is a field of research in industrial organizational psychology that focuses on “competencies”, which is essentially a fancy way of saying there are psychologists who study and categorize skills for a living (they’ve been doing it for 50+ years). However, I wonder how realistically that research translates into this product, and whether we can get Workday’s users to as accurately categorize skills into properly mapped competencies as a nerdy psychology PhD (no offense IO fans).
That being said, this does sound like an awesome product. Think of what a massive data set that is to know the skills and relative strengths of every member of your organization! I’m excited to see what competency-related products (Workday cloud skills or otherwise) emerge in the next 5-10 years, since I do believe this is a major trend.