Companies have long known that EQ (social skills, empathy, and self-awareness) is strongly correlated with star performance. Relationships or social capital, can be just as important as intellectual capital. However, until now the ability to collect real-time, precise data on people’s emotions and relationships at work and use that data to improve performance has been difficult at best. Without good data, little can be done to move the dial on performance.
A new generation of personal and environmental technologies can collect unprecedented levels of information about social and emotional states at work. According to Accenture Strategy research, 52pc of business executives expect a moderate-to-significant change in work practices due to wearable devices. Data from sensors can paint a vivid picture using input about emotions, stress levels, relationships, performance, productivity, and collaboration patterns. This information can be used as the basis for giving concrete advice on adjusting workplace behaviour for the workforce of the future.
Quantifying the personal
Data can be collected on individuals and provided back to them in real time. By increasing self-awareness, workers can make real-time adjustments to tasks at hand. This field is called auto analytics. Consumers are enthusiastically embracing auto-analytics to gauge how factors such as mood, sleep, and exercise are influencing physical and mental performance. Now the technology is entering the workplace. One opportunity is to help employees use more positive words to improve social relationships and ultimately boost the bottom line.
Leveraging the power of prediction
With a reservoir of accurate data, an organisation can experiment with interventions to boost performance. This includes using intelligent machines to predict emotions and behaviours. These insights help guide interventions aimed at improving performance. Based on previously collected data about each individual’s social behaviours, managers will be able to simulate how well specific people will work together and what challenges will likely emerge. Work assignments, team dynamics, and leader selection, to name a few, can be driven by analytics that can predict the impact of specific decisions.
Building emotional bench strength
Machines can also use analytics and cognitive computing to teach people how to improve their social skills or more accurately read other people’s emotions. This is true not just for workers, but also their managers, who appear to embrace the potential. Recent research from the Accenture Institute for High Performance and Accenture Strategy show that 84pc of managers believe that cognitive computing will make them more effective and their work more interesting. For example, data can be collected from a variety of sensors regarding things such as body posture, facial expressions, physiology, semantics, whom a person talks to and when. The aim: to provide feedback on whether the manager is exhibiting effective social behaviours while coaching.
Using tech to forge emotional links
Perhaps the most sophisticated use of technology ? but also the most intrusive ? involves changing people’s social and emotional behaviours in real time. The least intrusive way to do this is to have machines suggest actions, but still give humans the option as to whether or not they execute them. Technology with GPS functionality might suggest an interaction with colleagues in close proximity based on similar work goals or shared interests.
Get employees on board
For employees to accept using sensors and wearables to monitor their every move, they must thoroughly understand how it benefits them. They need to realise that they will have to give up data on themselves in exchange for far more satisfying and productive work experiences. Organisations need to be able to articulate how using cognitive computing in the workplace will improve the social and emotional experience of employees, as well as improve the bottom line.
Overcome privacy concerns
As a proliferation of sensors enters the workplace, they bring with them concerns about privacy and data rules. Collecting highly personal data on employees regarding their emotions and social behaviours is a significant concern. In a recent Accenture Strategy survey 76pc of employees said they were concerned that employers will use technology to track their every move. Of leaders responding, 45pc say privacy issues are a major concern with respect to digital transformation, the number one concern cited. Explicit, opt-in, informed consent is an important way to approach privacy issues. Companies also need to ensure that the data they collect is protected with the same rigour as their customer data.
Make it personal
As smart sensors continue to penetrate the workplace, organisations will be best served if they start with the least intrusive technologies first. Starting with auto-analytics ? or the ability for employees to collect data on themselves to improve their awareness ? will help employees understand the benefits of using wearable tech in the workplace. Workers need to become accustomed to a culture in which they increasingly partner with machines to improve their performance and learn new skills. As organisations start to develop a strong analytics capability and learn what to do with all the data collected by smart sensors, they can move to the next level: using more sophisticated analytics capabilities to predict the social and emotional impact on performance at work.
IT boosting EQ and IQ
Companies have perfected collecting data on consumers to boost sales and customer loyalty. But to date, they have had little insight into how the workforce of the future will interact with each other and what makes them happy or successful at work. A new generation of emerging technologies promises to change that, boosting EQ as well as IQ and resulting in a much more engaged, more productive workplace.
Himanshu Tambe is a managing director with Accenture Strategy’s talent and organisation. He helps clients deliver measurable improvements in the performance of their people and enterprises. He specialises in business, human capital and HR strategy, working with executive teams to align their vision and values. Mr Tambe is based in Singapore.
• Downloadable PDF: to find out more about how tech to help you better understand your workforce take a look at Accenture’s insightful report »