Google Testing Workplace Analytics Tool for G Suite Users

Google Testing Workplace Analytics Tool for G Suite Users

Google has developed a new feature for its G Suite of enterprise software that will enable managers to track whether and how employees are using various G Suite apps such as Gmail and Google Docs, the tech giant revealed this week. The tool, called “Work Insights,” is now in beta after being previewed with a small set of business customers, and will allow administrators to “gain visibility into which teams are working together and how they’re collaborating” and “review trends around file-sharing, document co-editing, and meetings to help foster connections, strengthen collaboration and reduce silos.”

To protect employee privacy, Google added, Work Insights only produces aggregated data analytics for teams of ten people or more, so admins will not be able to monitor individual employees’ use of G Suite apps, but will be able to see, for example, how many employees in a given business unit are using Google Hangouts.

The move looks like part of Google’s efforts to make G Suite more competitive against Microsoft’s enterprise technology collection, Office 365, CNBC’s Jillian D’Onfro noted in reporting the news. G Suite had 4 million paying customers as of this past February, whereas Microsoft counts 135 million active monthly commercial users of Office 365, which made its own Workplace Analytics feature generally available in 2017. Workplace Analytics also only uses aggregated and de-identified data to provide insights on a team, not individual, level.

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ReimagineHR: A Tale of Two Employee Monitoring Programs

ReimagineHR: A Tale of Two Employee Monitoring Programs

As employee monitoring technologies move out of the realm of experimentation and into the mainstream, concerns over their impact on employee privacy, data security, and trust have become even more pressing. In a breakout session at Gartner’s ReimagineHR event in London on Wednesday, Principal Executive Advisor Clare Moncrieff elucidated the difference between the kind of employee monitoring we trust and that which we don’t. She began by asking the attendees if they agreed with the following statements:

  1. “Recording the location, actions and communications of employees is a necessary and important part of business operations.”
  2. “Recording the location, actions and communications of commercial airline pilots is a necessary and important part of business operations.”

Responses to the first statement were mixed, with about half the audience saying they agreed or strongly agreed and the other half saying they disagreed or felt neutral on the subject. On the other hand, every single attendee agreed with the second statement. What’s the difference?

One reason why the recording of commercial airline pilots was uncontroversial is that it has been a standard practice in the industry for nearly 60 years. Flight recorders (commonly referred to “black boxes”) are understood to be a normal and necessary component of air safety procedures. Their value in diagnosing and correcting problems that can lead to catastrophic accidents is unquestioned, and everyone—passengers, crew, airline administrators, regulators, and the public—understands and appreciates why they are needed.

Pilots don’t see these devices as intruding on their privacy, even though they record every conversation they have in the cockpit, because their benefits are clear and because airlines only use the information for a specific and clearly defined purpose. Data from the recorders is only accessed after an incident and is never shared or published. Black box data has never been used for purposes other than intended and there has never been a known breach of flight data security in six decades of using these recorders. Also, data from flight recorders is only one of many inputs into an inquiry, which also incorporates first-hand accounts from the flight crew.

Flight data recorders meet all the key criteria of an effective employee monitoring system, according to our research at Gartner: The purpose and beneficiary of the technology is clear and consistent, access to the collected data is strictly controlled, and employees’ voices are taken into consideration when interpreting the data. When monitoring follows these guidelines, employees are much more likely to trust and accept it.

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Candidates’ Social Media History Gets More Scrutiny from Prospective Employers

Candidates’ Social Media History Gets More Scrutiny from Prospective Employers

In recent months, we have seen a series of controversies arise around the hiring of public figures in the media, sports, and entertainment industries after inflammatory comments they made on Twitter several years ago were brought to light. The Wall Street Journal explored the role of social media in recruiting through the lens of these stories earlier this month, noting that the vetting of candidates’ social media is increasingly common but still fairly new and less standardized than other forms of candidate screening.

Some of these controversies have led organizations to rescind job offers or terminate new hires on the basis of their old tweets, fueling extensive debate over whether these decisions chilled free speech, unfairly took people’s words out of context, or overreacted to flippant past remarks that did not necessarily reflect the person that candidate or new hire is today. In industries where talent has a public face, or in high-profile companies, employers are becoming more wary of what prospective hires have written on social media in the past, which anyone might dig up and use to damage their reputation and that of their employer.

In general, US companies are paying more attention to the social media histories of their prospective employees, not only in high-profile businesses like journalism and entertainment, according to a recent survey from CareerBuilder:

Seventy percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates (on par with last year), while seven percent plan to start. And that review matters: Of those that do social research, 57 percent have found content that caused them not to hire candidates. …

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‘Seen But Not Noticed’: How Employee Monitoring Can Backfire

‘Seen But Not Noticed’: How Employee Monitoring Can Backfire

Michel Anteby, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, and Curtis K. Chan of Boston College’s Carroll School of Management teamed up on a research project wherein they interviewed 89 Transportation Security Administration employees and their managers to learn more about how these employees responded to the camera surveillance systems that had been installed at their airport workplaces in 2011. The closed-circuit television cameras were motivated by complaints from travelers about their belongings getting lost or stolen during TSA screenings, the authors explained recently at the Harvard Business Review, so the managers “decided to install cameras to catch employees in the act of thieving, or to demonstrate to travelers that theft was not occurring by their employees’ hands at the checkpoints”:

But even if managers had intended for the monitoring efforts to protect employees from false accusations, the prevalent sentiment expressed by TSA employees was that managers were watching them to control them, making sure that every single, little thing that they did was exactly and precisely as planned. TSA officers expressed the sense of constantly being seen by higher-ups. … Officers used words like “Big Brother” and “spying” to articulate how managers were monitoring them, suggesting strongly that they really did not like the feeling of constantly being seen.

At the same time, however, officers expressed that even though they were constantly seen, they were almost never noticed.

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European Rights Court Strikes Another Blow Against Employee Surveillance

European Rights Court Strikes Another Blow Against Employee Surveillance

The European Court of Human Rights has found that covertly videotaping an employee at their workplace constitutes an intrusion into their private life in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. In a decision handed down on January 9, the court ruled in favor of five former employees of a supermarket chain in Spain, who were fired after their employer caught them engaging in or facilitating theft, based on evidence from surveillance cameras that had been installed without the employees’ knowledge, Dentons attorney Claire Maclean explains at Lexology:

The employees challenged their dismissals before the Spanish courts, arguing that the use of covert video surveillance in the workplace without prior notice was unlawful. These challenges were unsuccessful so they raised proceedings before the ECHR alleging that the covert video surveillance violated their right to privacy protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court held that the installation of the covert cameras had not complied with the Spanish legislation on data protection. The Spanish Data Protection Agency had issued an instruction clarifying that anyone using video surveillance had to place a distinctive sign indicating the areas that were under surveillance.

The court ordered Spain to pay each of the applicants 4,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage, plus court costs, but rejected the applicants’ claim that they were entitled to pecuniary damages for the wages they would have earned had the Spanish courts declared their dismissals unfair and reinstated their employment at the supermarket.

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How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a marked acceleration in the pace of change in the workplace. Each year brings with it new innovations, ideas, and passing fads, as well as social, political, and economic events that affect employers all across the world. 2017 was no exception: Tight labor markets driving competition for talent, concerns over automation and displacement amid the growing embrace of new technologies, the first year of the Trump administration, and the rise of the #MeToo movement were just a few of the many events and trends that impacted the working world last year. In 2018, we anticipate that some of these developments will continue to reverberate, while new challenges and opportunities will arrive.

Here are some of the major developments that employers can expect to see this year, in the US and around the world:

The Sexual Harassment Reckoning Will Only Grow

In the second half of 2017, revelations of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault poured out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, sparking a long-overdue conversation about the treatment of women and the harboring of known abusers in these male-dominated industries, as well as in politics, media, and other fields. Powerful men, from Hollywood moguls to tech CEOs to members of the US Congress, were toppled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate workplace behavior to outright assault. Organizations in all sectors are facing unprecedented public attention to their sexual harassment policies, how diligently they enforce them, and whether they uphold an inclusive and respectful work environment. If the reckoning didn’t come to your industry in the past few months, it likely will this year. Business leaders in corporate America and around the world will have their past and present behavior scrutinized, and some will be exposed as abusers and face strong public and investor pressure to step down. Addressing toxic workplace cultures that enable sexual harassment will become an issue of even greater concern for directors and HR leaders. Companies can ill afford to close their eyes and hope for this problem to go away on its own; time really is up.

The Private Sector Will Lead the Way on Raising the Minimum Wage

Congress is unlikely to take action to increase the federal minimum wage in 2018. Some states will raise their minimum wages, as will some cities, while other states will take action to preempt local hikes. Meanwhile, companies will take it upon themselves to increase their pay floors in order to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. As large employers of low-wage hourly workers like Walmart and Target increase their own minimum wages, other companies will need to follow suit to remain competitive.

Technology, Social Media, and Journalists Will Continue to Bring Transparency into Company Culture

Companies’ cultures and employer brands are in the spotlight now more than ever before. The decisions, approaches, policies, and beliefs through which companies manage their employees will play a dramatically larger role in how consumers and investors (not just candidates and employees) view the company. In 2018, this will put pressure on companies to manage their employer brands through HR as aggressively as they protect their consumer brands through PR.

CEOs Will Be Forced to Take Stands on Political And Social Issues

Throughout 2018, the political polarization and dysfunction that has prevailed in Washington, D.C. recently will almost certainly persist, while gender equality, diversity, immigration, LGBT rights, and other issues with major workplace implications will remain hot-button topics. While some CEOs have already found their voices when it comes to responding to the news of the day, others will feel pressure this year from customers, employees, and investors alike to be more vocal about their beliefs and to back them up with concrete actions within their companies.

AI Will Play a Bigger Role In Hiring, Raising the Risk of Algorithmic Bias

The use of AI and algorithms in hiring decisions has already grown dramatically. In 2018, companies will continue to adopt these technologies, but many will also begin to recognize the danger of algorithmic bias. While these automated solutions have shown promise in terms of improving quality, efficiency, and even fairness in the recruiting process, they also run the risk of harming diversity in the workforce by replicating biases that already exist within the company.

Adoption of Wearables in the Workplace Will Increase

In 2017, 3 percent of companies introduced wearable technology in the workplace, giving employees smart badges to monitor their behavior in order to track productivity and identify inefficiencies in the use of office space. In 2018, as more companies adopt technology that can track the location and behavioral data of employees, companies will begin to use this data to redesign workspaces, schedules, and workflows to maximize employee productivity. As these technologies become more mainstream, employers may not have to worry as much as they think about employees resisting their implementation, but should think carefully about how much actionable insight they are gaining by monitoring their employees.

More Employees Will Change Jobs Due to a Lack of Respect

While compensation continues to be the top driver of attraction for candidates globally, respect was the the fourth most important driver in our Global Talent Monitor Report for Q3 2017. In 2018, the labor market will continue to remain tight and employees will feel that they have enough control to speak openly about the lack of respect or appreciation. If companies aren’t able to provide increased compensation or opportunities for growth, they should look at ways to improve employees’ sense of respect in order to retain talent.

Lessons from Last Year: HR Tech Leaps Forward

Lessons from Last Year: HR Tech Leaps Forward

Technology played a huge role in shaping the direction of HR strategy in 2017. As organizations struggle with the rapid pace of change, challenges in implementation, and digital skills gaps, being nimble enough to take advantage of emerging technologies has become more important than ever. If done correctly, effective leverage of tech can lead to significant progress for the HR function as a strategic center rather than an order-taking and operations-focused unit.

Here are some highlights from the year that was in HR tech:

Tech Titans Entered the Fray

In the past year, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook have made major plays in the business services space, with implications for HR in recruiting, productivity/collaboration software, and more. Google launched an expanded job search offering in June, which serves job seekers as well as large and small businesses. Most recently, in November, the online search giant added functionality for tablet in addition to desktop and mobile and the ability to independently estimate a salary range for job postings based on publicly available data.

Following its acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016, Microsoft began to make some interesting plays in this space last year. To start, the Seattle-based software company has been hiring AI talent by the thousands and plans to develop connectivity between LinkedIn profile data and Office 365 services such as the Outlook mail client. It will also connect LinkedIn data to its Dynamic sales and recruiting platforms, allowing users to quickly get background information on prospective targets. Dynamic will also have an AI-powered virtual assistant to help users with troubleshooting and completing various tasks. Additionally, Microsoft Word will be able to suggest job postings on LinkedIn to users as they are updating their resume, which stands to streamline the job search process for many candidates. Microsoft is also reshaping the next version of its Hololens headset as a powerful enterprise tool.

Microsoft also launched a Workplace Analytics tool as an add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans. The software captures metadata from email and calendars to help companies understand how employees collaborate and spend their time. It could be particularly helpful for understanding how high-performing teams are different from average ones. Microsoft is also launching an AI tool on the Azure Machine Learning suite called Pendleton, which helps with data collection, preparing, cleaning, and analysis.

Amazon is hoping its voice-activated virtual assistant Alexa, which has proven very popular as a household convenience, can deliver the same value in the workplace. In early December, the online retail powerhouse announced the Alexa for Business offering at its annual AWS re:Invent conference. This comes as a marquee addition to a suite of existing offerings from Amazon Web Services, including Workspaces and WorkDocs. Alexa can be programmed with “skills” or apps for business uses such as turning on lights, connecting to conference lines, and managing schedules. Alexa for Business will also be able to connect with third-party services such as Microsoft Office or the Google G-Suite.

Perhaps the most surprising of the tech titans to make big plays in the enterprise market in the past year was Facebook, though in hindsight, it looks like a natural fit. After launching an employee collaboration platform called Workplace in late 2016, the social media giant partnered with ZipRecruiter to expand its job search capabilities and began testing a wide range of options and features to help connect its massive user base to prospective employers.

These forays by some of the largest and most successful companies in the world confirm that technology will continue to drastically reshape how business is done in the coming years. These titans are investing heavily in the talent and assets to get a piece of the enterprise software pie, in competition with some of the more established companies like Oracle and SAP. We can expect this heightened competition to continue driving innovation in this space in the coming years.

HR by VR

As the cost of virtual reality technology goes down, we’re starting to see it used in a variety of workplace applications. In addition to the Microsoft Hololens, Google Glass has emerged as a potentially valuable business tool, though the two technologies are designed for slightly different uses. Microsoft’s headset offering creates more of a closed environment and is capable of displaying much larger graphics, while all the computing power is contained within the headset. Google Glass looks more like a pair of glasses and is less disruptive to the user’s field of vision. It also needs to be connected to a smartphone or computer of some kind to operate. Facebook-owned Oculus and HTC are also selling VR technology directly to companies.

VR has also been used for training purposes, helping the learning and development function standardize and scale training that mirrors real-life situations more closely than any other available option. Walmart has been an early adopter of VR learning, while KFC has also released a campy, gamified chicken-frying tutorial. We have also seen VR being used to support employees’ mental health and wellness, with offerings for anxiety, ADHD, fear of public speaking, meditation, PTSD, and more.

Employee Monitoring: Big Brother or Benevolent Buddy?

Late in 2016, we started to see the emergence of employee monitoring tech in the form of badges that can track an employee’s whereabouts and even analyze their mood based on their tone of voice. Through this tool, companies have been able to make improvements in productivity, such as finding out that socializing improved performance and that adding lunch tables helped employees socialize more.

In 2017, this trend continued, with some employers even experimenting with implanting microchips in employees. The microchip functions like a badge, able to open doors or unlock printers “with the wave of the hand.” While this particular initiative, first undertaken by a Swedish startup, has little to do with monitoring of health or productivity, it’s easy to see how it could. However, corporate fitness tracking programs using bracelets like the Fitbit seem like a more practical option for companies interested in monitoring employee health.

Another application of monitoring technology has been to help companies use space more efficiently. Barclays was among the companies to experiment with the OccupEye devices, which are attached to desks to determine how much time employees spend there. Part of the bank’s success in rolling out this initiative was a clear communication strategy. “The sensors aren’t monitoring people or their productivity; they are assessing office space usage,” the bank said in an emailed statement. “This sort of analysis helps us to reduce costs, for example, managing energy consumption, or identifying opportunities to further adopt flexible work environments.”

Automating the Process

One of the primary obstacles to widespread adoption of HR technology has been leaders’ hesitation to dive headfirst into the newest technologies, due in part to concerns over which parts of the HR function are suited for a technological transformation. While there are theories for automating everything from performance management to keeping employees from overworking, the most practical applications of automation technology in HR are in more administrative or repetitive tasks. A survey from CareerBuilder found that employee messaging (57 percent), benefit setup (53 percent), payroll setup (47 percent), and background checks and drug testing (47 percent) were the most common processes currently being automated in organizations.

Recruiting is often compared to sales in the sense that certain best practices translate from one function to the other. In sales, automated solutions in lead generation are reshaping the way both B2B and B2C businesses are finding customers. Recruiting seems to be following suit in sourcing, a practice analogous to lead generation in sales. One of the most interesting emerging technologies is an AI-powered sourcing software called Helena by Woo, a recruiting platform provider, which communicates with and on behalf of both the company and candidate to automate the candidate identification and screening processes. The company claims that 52 percent of Helena-sourced candidates make it to the interview stage, whereas human-sourced candidates move on at a rate of around 20 percent. Woo’s founder steadfastly believes he can automate the entire recruiting process.

Additionally, with so many companies folding AI into their products, not just in the HR tech space, demand for AI talent has skyrocketed. Microsoft more than doubled the headcount for its AI division and Amazon gave priority choice in the hiring process for engineers to its new Alexa for Business offering. Even the auto industry is playing ball, as Ford acquired a majority stake in an AI development startup as it competes with the likes of Google and Tesla in the race to develop fully automated self-driving vehicles.

Enabling Diversity and Inclusion

A number of major companies and startups are working on solutions to help businesses improve their ability to attract and retain diverse employees. SAP announced intentions to add functionality to its SuccessFactors recruiting platform, which will scan job descriptions for terminology that indicates bias towards men and recommend changes to attract more diverse candidates. It will also monitor performance ratings to find women who are overdue for promotions or identify if they experience a dip in ratings after taking maternity leave. Many other companies are working on solutions for reducing bias in the hiring process. They have their work cut out for them, however, as algorithms are only as good as the data that feeds them and there is a lot of evidence that most companies’ data is highly flawed.

Ultimately, this investment in developing diversity-enabling technology shows that diversity and inclusion are becoming more than just PR initiatives, as Quartz’s Sarah Kessler wrote in August, highlighting some of our research at Gartner:

Analysts at Gartner predicted in a March 2017 research note that by 2020, more than 75% of large enterprises will include features that promote diversity and inclusion in their selection process for HR software. John Kostoulas, a co-author of the report, told Quartz that companies have historically monitored diversity mainly to avoid breaking anti-discrimination laws, but he believes that they will take a more holistic approach as evidence continues to build for the case that diversity contributes to businesses in other ways.

It can be hard for businesses to keep up with the rapid pace of change as the capabilities of software and hardware accelerate so quickly. Leaders of large organizations will need to carefully consider the costs and benefits of making technological investments that could fundamentally transform the way they operate. The most successful types of technologies will be those that take much of the busywork out of existing processes in a way that is minimally invasive. Though 2017 was another great year for innovation, adoption is still low as leaders are increasingly less confident in the direction to take their technology strategy. At CEB, now Gartner, our HR practice will be closely studying the best ways to implement technology over the course of 2018.