Gathering Data at the Water Cooler

Calculating the HR news for the week ending March 8, 2013:

Big Brother for Big Data in the Workplace

Big Data is a term that’s been getting a lot of buzz over the past few years, but it’s not necessarily something that always gets associated with HR. Thanks to an article in the Wall Street Journal, that could change. This week, the paper reports that, in an effort to learn more about how much face-time matters to its call teams, Bank of America asked 90 of its workers to wear badges for a few weeks with tiny sensors to record their movements and tone of their conversations. The data revealed that the most productive workers were on close-knit teams and frequently spoke to their colleagues. As a result, Bank of America began scheduling workers for group breaks, raising productivity 10 percent.

The article reports that using sensors in an office setting is increasingly common. Businesses like the sensors because they offer insights that are often hard to gather about how employees work. Consequently, companies are making big and small changes, ranging from the timing of coffee breaks to how work groups are composed to spur collaboration and productivity.

Principles of Hiring Data

people gathering HR data

Gather all of the data! flickr/frodo1977

Data is essential for HR departments. It’s especially helpful when it comes to measuring a quality hire. TLNT breaks down a formula for measuring whether or not you’ve made the right decision. There are two different ways to formulate the value of a hire: recruitment-focused quality measures and performance after hire.

To evaluate the value of a prospective candidate, companies need to take into account things that matter to them. Are they looking to diversify their office? What’s the value of the candidate’s experience? After hiring, you should evaluate performance measures and compares them to measures of productivity. But don’t forget to put a value on your worker’s contribution to the company culture!

Applied Motivation

Motivating employees at every stage of their work-cycle can be tough. While it’s often hard to pinpoint what you should do, it’s crystal clear what you shouldn’t do, if you trust the folks at Inc. This week, the website offers four “motivators” that have the potential to backfire if used incorrectly. While financial rewards are an essential part of every working environment, when money is the only thing you’re promising an employee for a job well done, its effect is lessened. Like money, fear is another motivator that's inclined to backfire. Sure, Machiavelli may have said it’s better to be feared than loved, but if he took a step around the modern work environment, he might reconsider. It’s more likely just to push your employees towards the door.

Don’t be too over-the-top with your praise, either. Everyone likes kudos or a reward for a job well done, but try not to get too excited when someone successfully changes the printer paper. If you dole out the praise too casually, it loses its meaning. Finally, don’t pit employees against each other. A little bit of friendly competition is healthy, but ultimately you want employees working together.

Threat level: Red

If JCPenney is going to keep the above tips to heart, it might want to reconsider its new HR policy. Business Insider reports this week that the struggling retailer has begun color-coding its employees based on performance abilities. If your boss labels you a “red,” watch out:  you’re next on the chopping block. Yellows have the opportunity to improve, while greens are in the clear. The publication reported that the retailer didn’t inform employees of the new coding system – just handed out the new policy and warned employees on skid row to shape up or out.

Want to pick up an HR tip or two? Register for free email updates or take a look at last week’s HR Water Cooler.


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