Just because someone is at their desk, does not mean they are adding value!
In Manchester this week is the annual conference of the CIPD, the annual gathering of professionals working in Human Resources (HR). A theme running through several of the sessions this year is the challenge of businesses and organisations to connect, engage and motivate their people.
In the past many organisations have put in place systems to manage and reduce absence at work. In fact this very week several government departments in France have started awarding bonuses for attendance at work. But this leads to other, ore serious problems. Mainly presenteeism. people at work but not being productive. This is bad for the individual, their peers and the organisation. For a person present and not performing is worse than them being absent!
Data from Microsoft suggests that 77% of people consider a productive day at work as emptying their email inbox!
Stress is a hidden enemy of business today.
Big data and productivity and wellness
Dave Coplin from Microsoft highlighted that if top level sorts teams can use data to help improve not only the productivity of its players, but their health and well being. This was reenforced by Sir Clive Woodward, talking about the importance of data in the management, engagement and planning of top level performing teams.
If sports teams can use big data, then responsible employers should do the same. With simple personal devices such as smartwatches, fit devices etc, we can monitor the physical activity, heart rate and other vital statistics. Imagine a future where we can predict when people are being stresses and give the data to managers to help support employees.
Microsoft are currently working with a UK police force to tract the heart rate of police on the beat. they can see when rates change, and if out of context, this can help send backup or support to officers. Data when used for win/win can not only increase productivity, but help to manage the well being of our people.
The use of such data in the same way as it can help us find data in a database or search engine, can help us predict changes to service needs, enable more flexible working and give individuals a level of independence.
The dangers of presenteeism
As managers and HR professionals we in the past have been concerned with levels of absence. Today the challenge is harder to see and manage. When people are not there, we know what is or is not being done. When people at present, they are at there desk or workstation, but not doing anything, that is a problem. It is not as easy to see. In many situations peers will pick up some of the slack. This put additional stress on those working. It also doesn’t help solve the issue of those that are present but not performing.
What should be of concern to business is that most managers and HR teams just do not have the skills or processes to identify this set of behaviours. Worse, we do not have the tools to solve the issue. Often this is stress hidden in plain sight!
Technology is the problem and the solution
Often when people are present, they hide behind technology. “Doing emails”, checking out intranet articles, using social media. We can be seen to be busy without actually doing anything.
The obvious solution is to set tight performance objectives and “performance manage” the situation. But this just wont work. For if the individual is stressed, it rapidly changes from presenteeism to absence. the real goal is to identify the stressors, target and reduce them. Unfortunately we do not yet have the culture in most organisations to introduce the tools to start this process.
The future is brighter for mental wellbeing at work
As we start to accept even more technology in our lives, and we start to become open to data being use to help, not to controls us, we can start to collect data that can inform decisions and processes. Much like some of best sports teams of today using data to develop people, build their performance, and support their wellbeing, so businesses of tomorrow will embrace data to provide supportive and productive environments.
Become a sponge not a stone
Of course many of us will need to get over the thoughts of “big brother” to become open to this new approach. We need to be open to learning and adapting to the changes in the knowledge about us and around us.