Using Monitoring Technologies to Meet Employees’ Needs

Using Monitoring Technologies to Meet Employees’ Needs

Employee monitoring technology is often depicted as “Big Brother” watching over employees to enforce maximum productivity. However, as these technologies become more common, organizations are finding opportunities to use them in ways that benefit employer and employee alike. TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear reports on one London startup, Zego, which has devised a way for delivery workers on gig economy platforms to insure their vehicles at an affordable rate by charging them only for those hours when they are logged into the platforms they use to find work:

The startup has also developed good relationships with the platforms it supports, meaning its insurance app is able to connect to those on-demand food delivery platforms so that Zego-insured drivers don’t need to manually tell Zego when they are and aren’t working. Instead, the cover kicks in as soon as they log on for a delivery shift.

And because Zego knows when a person is or isn’t out driving and where, it is potentially able to use this data to adjust its risk assessment accordingly. The startup is also exploring telematics — the use of tracking hardware and software — as another way of more accurately pricing its pay-as-you-go cover or helping to reduce risk by perhaps warning drivers when they are being unsafe.

Zego’s product responds to a demand for ways to give workers in the UK’s ever-expanding gig economy at least some of the benefits and protections enjoyed by full-time employees, in a flexible, portable form that fits with their work lives. It also collects a lot of data on its users, but Zego is betting that they will be perfectly happy to trade that data for reduced insurance costs. In fact, the pay-as-you-go insurance policy is one of their main branding points on their site. Because Zego is offering a value proposition where workers benefit from the collection of their data, they don’t mind the company knowing when and where they work.

Employers can benefit from a similar approach when implementing employee monitoring technologies or otherwise collecting employee data. Research we at CEB, now Gartner, conducted last year found that most employees don’t consider it unacceptable for their employers to monitor their activity at work. Among millennials, 70 percent don’t mind being monitored as long as the purpose of the monitoring is to help improve their performance. Our findings suggest that employees are less resistant to these new forms of monitoring than employers may think, but also that they are even less likely to object when they see a direct benefit.

Another example of this is the use of incentives to encourage employees to wear fitness trackers and share some of their health data with their employer, insurer, or a vendor in exchange for a free or reduced-cost device, or rewards for meeting fitness goals. UnitedHealthcare has introduced a “bring your own device” model of an incentive program that enables employees with United insurance to bank rewards for physical activity in their health reimbursement accounts. Christopher Snowbeck recently profiled the program at the StarTribune:

After first piloting its program in 2015, UnitedHealthcare announced early last year a broader rollout in which health plan enrollees could use fitness tracking devices and have a shot at earning up to $1,460 over the course of a year for meeting certain activity goals. The collaboration with San Diego-based Qualcomm was expanded this year to employer groups in most states, said Sterling, the UnitedHealthcare official. Participants can each earn up to $4 per day in their health reimbursement account (HRA) for hitting all three distinct targets.

Leveraging employee data can also take the form of sentiment analysis, a method for assessing opinions and attitudes based on written text. Leaders at Unilever use sentiment analysis to better understand their own company’s culture by “listening” to employees’ internally-posted public comments, social media commentary on firm-relevant issues, and anonymous survey data. To supplement traditional surveys and analysis, Unilever is able to use this analysis to quickly gauge employee reactions to events affecting the company and adjust strategy accordingly. Employees benefit by having their feedback heard without having to go through traditional channels such as surveys or focus groups. CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can read our full case study on Unilever’s Culture Monitoring here.

To be effective, employee monitoring systems must be transparent in their use of employee data. Whether the technology is for performance or health, employees need to understand the source of the data. To sustain its pay-as-you-go service, for instance, Zego communicates to drivers what data it collects and consent is integral to the business model. Transparency is important because it generates trust between both parties, which is essential when introducing new approaches to data collection. This is one of the key emerging findings of our ongoing research into talent analytics, which CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can learn more about in our upcoming webinar on December 12.