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Privacy & Workforce Analytics: The Manager Perspective

Learn how you can solve the unique workforce analytics and data privacy-related concerns managers and supervisors face.

Suzanne Carroll

By Suzanne Carroll

Privacy & Workforce Analytics: The Manager Perspective

Part 2 of a 4-part blog series

Read Part 1: The Employee Perspective

The pandemic-driven abrupt transition to remote work challenged all the conventional wisdom in how we approach productivity in a modern, dispersed workplace. It not only required us to adopt new technologies for virtual communication and collaboration but also adapt to an isolating social environment. Frontline managers were thrust into this major transfiguration of the workplace, striving to manage new business expectations and employee support needs without appropriate resources and training, leading to 78% increased burnout among managers.

Traditional manager roles were designed to serve in-office teams and employees. Managers in today’s new work-from-anywhere world need similar visibility and alignment, aided by technology to compensate for direct in-person communication, collaboration, and relationship development. Because not only are they responsible for business operations, they are the primary builders and nurturers of team morale, trust, healthy team dynamics, development coaching, employee well-being, and engagement. 

This has fueled an urgent need for modern, innovative approaches to navigate the challenges of our new normal and manage the day-to-day operations of remote/hybrid teams. Many have turned to workforce analytics solutions to get a real-time pulse of team engagement, alignment, performance, and communication. These technologies help workplace leaders understand how work gets done in a remote or hybrid setting, surface opportunities to provide support quickly to employees and understand the true impact on business outcomes.

However, relying solely on broad technology rollout without a true empathetic mindset and humane context is insufficient and ineffective in the long run. Constructive and impactful adoption across all levels of an organization can only actualize if there is grassroots recognition of the enriching value and beneficial influence to personal productivity, focus, general well-being, improved mental health, and a healthy work-life balance.

This begins primarily with having access to your own data for self-awareness of work patterns and behaviors, regardless of whether you are an individual contributor, team member, manager, or in a leadership role. A self-understanding of work habits and patterns at every level of the hierarchy is critical and can be the catalytic force to encourage meaningful conversations and progressive policies within the organization centered around sustainable productivity and a healthy workforce, leading to successful rollout and implementation.

With hybrid and remote work overtaking traditional and on-site work scenarios, it is increasingly difficult to intuitively gauge the level of support needed or overutilization or burnout risks over video conferencing. These challenges are then compounded and amplified to an organizational level, impacting overall job satisfaction, employee experience, retention, and hiring metrics.

Now, what if you had actual data and insights to assist your team management and decision making, with a spotlight on any potential worrisome trends, with nudges that call for early interventions? A workforce analytics platform does exactly that - supplement your knowledge and experience with accurate, reliable, and actionable data. And when implemented across all levels of an organization with robust HR policies to ensure consistency and uniformity, it provides a virtual real-time dashboard on the overall health of the organization.

While these solutions provide valuable insights into employee work patterns, behaviors, and challenges, employees may harbor reservations on the intent and usage of the data, especially those related to privacy concerns.

Let's delve into five privacy-related challenges frequently encountered by managers when using a workforce analytics solution, and how you can recognize and address them.

Insight, Not Oversight 

As a manager, your main concern is that employees are engaged with their projects and tasks, and work is progressing on track to meet deadlines. You trust your employees to manage their time and resources to get their jobs done. Mainly, you just want to know how your employees are working, not necessarily what exactly they’re doing every minute. 

Good managers focus on the well-being of their employees – looking at broader trends of employee work patterns to distill characteristic insights on individual productivity profiles. Are employees motivated and engaged? Is the team working well towards their goals? Are they over or underutilized, taking healthy breaks, spending too much time in meetings, or heading to burnout? Workforce analytics platforms enable employees to leverage their own data to get better and ask for help while providing managers with key metrics to guide proactive focused 1:1 conversations centered on resolving any challenges in the way of optimal productivity and job satisfaction. 

Being transparent with your team about the intent and goal of workforce analytics implementations, and being respectful of data privacy concerns is critical to building trust and secure buy-in from employees. Robust data privacy controls minimize much of the discontent and help spotlight the true value of workforce analytics to help everyone work wiser. 

A good rule of thumb is to set clear expectations and guidelines on acceptable digital behaviors, with guardrails in place for privacy and security compliance. Make reasonable allowances for mental breaks in a workday spent reading news, social media, and other personal work, as long as they don’t negatively impact work deliverables. Creating a culture based on trust and transparency elevates the employee experience to do their best work in a supportive and collaborative environment.  

Objective Data Imparts Equality, Minimizes Bias

Research has shown there exists a traditional, unconscious bias in the workplace referred to as “Proximity Bias” where an on-site, visible employee is perceived to be more productive than a remote employee, often resulting in unequal salary and career progression opportunities. This is despite the fact that 75% of people reported being the same or more productive with WFH.

Managers can now level the playing field for all employees with impartial productivity data, minimizing any intentional or unintentional bias. Reliable analytics platforms have robust user access permissions to gate visibility of personal work data within the organization, with added features for anonymization and aggregation of data to ensure confidentiality. This unbiased, objective visibility is fundamental to gaining a personalized understanding of how work gets done whether in-office, remote or hybrid; and adapting to flexible work hours outside of the traditional 8 to 5. 

Productivity data can be extremely enlightening in recognizing top performers and contributors across teams, while identifying employees that may need additional support and direction, but are hesitant to speak up and reach out. Data can also discover productivity drains such as constant Slack interruptions or too many meetings that can hinder focus, and cause stress and anxiety.

Objective Data Minimizes Discrimination

A reliable AI platform can provide contextual data insights to inform and enable managers to connect empathetically with employees, with personalized support and flexible solutions to accommodate productive work around personal and family challenges in a remote work environment. For example, parents and primary caregivers in the home may encounter frequent personal interruptions from children at home after school and may be more productive with flexible work schedules outside of established norms. Analytics solutions can bring to light these challenges (small house, young children, elderly, etc) without being intrusive and help managers empathically reach out to employees with innovative workarounds that build trust and loyalty and serve larger organization goals of diversity, inclusion & equal opportunity.

Objective Data Supplemented by Context for Fair Performance and Career Decisions

Data analytics brings equality to performance assessment, to allay fears that only the most visible, vocal, or social employees are recognized as achievers and getting recognition. AI-driven trends and work patterns data over a period of time are indicative of a consistently high-performing employee, rather than day-to-day fluctuations. 

The role of a frontline manager in providing data-driven, regular feedback and support to the team helps set employees up for the most success and growth opportunities while communicating regularly to resolve roadblocks and hurdles in the path to success. It also enables employees to take ownership of their personal growth and development, and reach out to managers with supporting data to raise and address issues of work overload or burnout among others. 

Productivity analytics are never meant to serve as a recommendation engine when it comes to performance decisions, but rather as a catalyst to serve regular, progressive conversations around a healthy work environment, thereby increasing morale and building trust in the manager, leadership, and the organization.

Reliable, Accurate Platforms Build Employee Trust, Encourage Adoption

AI-driven algorithms are extremely valuable in gaining insight into employee work habits and behaviors, especially in remote work settings. But it is a known fact that algorithms are only as good as the data you feed into them. Hence, it is critical that you carefully select a solutions platform from trusted and reliable providers, and there is clarity and transparency in the data, how it is processed and the resulting insights are sound. Additionally, allowing employees at all levels access to their own data insights boosts transparency, and encourages self-awareness and improvement.

Empowering Managers and Teams with Data Insights

Here are some pro tips for managers to improve trust, team morale, and engagement with their teams and individual employees in a remote/hybrid environment:

  • Be mindful of employee privacy concerns, and adopt best practices that align with the overall company culture.
  • Communicate openly and regularly about expectations and set realistic benchmarks and goals.
  • Empower managers to educate around the context of data-driven decisions.
  • Allow managers to set a healthy work-life balance/culture for their team. 
  • Enable flexibility with a focus on productivity. 
  • Analyze aggregate trends over time (days, weeks, months), not daily working hours.
  • Minimize data collection to only business-related activity. 
  • Empower employees with access to their personal work data insights for self-driven ownership and management of work habits..

While these tips are useful, you likely don’t have time to manually implement these tips into your everyday operations. Managers need a workforce analytics solution that helps them build and sustain productive, successful, and healthy teams, regardless of when and where work gets done, without taking hours out of their day.

A Workforce Analytics Solution Designed for Everyone

ActivTrak is a leading workforce analytics and productivity software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that provides data-driven insights through intuitive reports and dashboards to improve workforce productivity and operational efficiency. ActivTrak is committed to providing solutions that enhance visibility and productivity using an ethical approach focused on transparency and collaboration. The platform focuses on collecting contextual data that helps every individual role in an organization work wiser, build trusting relationships, and achieve amazing things together. And that means everyone wins!

Some specific benefits that ActivTrak can bring include: 

  • Data-driven coaching prompts to help managers identify early signs of overutilization or burnout. 
  • Resources through ActivTrak Productivity Lab to understand workforce analytics and help build trust within the organization. 
  • Diminishes fears and concerns around employee data privacy through multiple data privacy controls.
  • Productivity trends and insights with the flexibility to exclude any or all private and sensitive data. 
  • Gives employees access to their own data via personal insights to encourage self-improvement and eliminate wrong perceptions on data use.

ActivTrak serves as a powerful ally to managers, helping them understand the unique individual and collective team behaviors and strengths while providing timely guidance and support to strengthen team engagement, morale, and experience.

For example, SiteTech Systems, a diversified consulting, research, and analytics company serving financial entities experienced the power of ActivTrak’s platform first hand. They utilized the solution under extreme circumstances when Covid restrictions abruptly led to their entire workforce working remotely. 

While the company wanted employees to feel safe in their home environments, they needed to sustain high levels of service by responding swiftly to time-sensitive customer issues and ensuring compliance with data security. 

ActivTrak was the right choice for SiteTech to enable managers to understand their team productivity patterns better, allowing them to continue to provide remote work flexibility. 
Learn why ActivTrak was the best choice for SiteTech Systems, and learn more about our approach to data privacy.

About ActivTrak

ActivTrak helps companies unlock productivity potential. Our award-winning workforce analytics and productivity management software provides expert insights that empower people, optimize processes, and maximize technology. Additionally, with data sourced from more than 9,500 customers and over 450,000 users, ActivTrak’s Workforce Productivity Lab is a global center for ground-breaking research and expertise that helps companies embrace and embody the future of work.

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