Employers Are Mining the Data Their Workers Generate To Figure Out What They’re Up To, and With Whom

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: To be an employee of a large company in the U.S. now often means becoming a workforce data generator — from the first email sent from bed in the morning to the Wi-Fi hotspot used during lunch to the new business contact added before going home. Employers are parsing those interactions to learn who is influential, which teams are most productive and who is a flight risk. Companies, which have wide legal latitude in the U.S. to monitor workers, don’t always tell them what they are tracking. […] It’s not just emails that are being tallied and analyzed. Companies are increasingly sifting through texts, Slack chats and, in some cases, recorded and transcribed phone calls on mobile devices.

Microsoft Corp. tallies data on the frequency of chats, emails and meetings between its staff and clients using its own Office 365 services to measure employee productivity, management efficacy and work-life balance. Tracking the email, chats and calendar appointments can paint a picture of how employees spend an average of 20 hours of their work time each week, says Natalie McCollough, a general manager at Microsoft who focuses on workplace analytics. The company only allows managers to look at groups of five or more workers. Advocates of using surveillance technology in the workplace say the insights allow companies to better allocate resources, spot problem employees earlier and suss out high performers. Critics warn that the proliferating tools may not be nuanced enough to result in fair, equitable judgments. The report says that “U.S. employers are legally entitled to access any communications or intellectual property created in the workplace or on devices they pay for that employees use for work.” Companies are getting smarter by analyzing phone calls and conference room conversations. “In some cases, tonal analysis can help diagnose culture issues on a team, showing who dominates conversations, who demurs and who resists efforts to engage in emotional discussions,” the report says.

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