Is taking time to think, learn, or coach — oneself or others — doomed in a world of ubiquitous workplace performance tracking – what we call “trackware?” As more and more time and effort are expended to track worker performance now is the perfect time to ask this question — and answer it.
It seems that performance management — which used to focus on measuring and rewarding performance — is morphing into measuring just about every aspect of a person’s work-related activities.
If “ubiquitous tracking” hasn’t penetrated your workspace yet – it likely will soon. Why? Because it’s becoming the thing to do!
Here are 2 articles we think you’ll find informative.
If you don’t have a New York Times subscription, these are a few highlights:
- Eight of ten of the largest private employers in the US track the “productivity metrics” of individual workers.
- White collar jobs are far from exempt—employees as varied as surgeons, ministers, accountants, social workers, and managers of all types are tracked.
- Performance management in this context is absolutely here to stay and “evolving” all the time. As for the “good and bad,” Amazon for example dropped an aspect of their warehouse monitoring after it appeared to lower productivity and potentially lead to unionization.
- The biggest problem from the perspective of those who are monitored is that the wrong things are often measured, or measures are inaccurate and do not adequately account for the full scope of important human activities – like thinking, learning, failing, discovering, having empathy – and the list goes on.
We’re at a crossroads.
As coaches who create coaching content and on-demand coaching support tools to help people be more successful, we believe we’re at a crossroad so to speak when it comes to thoughtful workplace design. Tracking every aspect of worker activity is in vogue, BUT SO IS a growing recognition of the benefits associated with building relationships, coaching, self-awareness, and self-development. Measurement and development are both valuable and both are needed. Can they co-exist?
Our concern is that if done poorly, a focus on measurement may have unintended consequences and diminish a person’s willingness to allocate time for self-development activities
The leadership and productivity literature continually cites research that demonstrates that qualities like empathy, effort to build and maintain relationships, and skills like coaching are essential to success in today’s workplace. This research is consistent with our own workplace coaching experience. And yet, as the focus on “tracking” grows, so grows our concern that too much measurement and measuring the wrong “stuff” may take us all in the wrong direction.
We need balance!
As more and more systems to track activity are put in place there must be equal and parallel effort to encourage workers to continue to engage in development activities that support future output and benefits even if they are not immediately measured or rewarded.
We’d like to believe that all the companies that create these measurement programs are well intentioned and aware of the need for people to continue learning on the job, and spending increased time on reading, reflecting, reaching out, and communicating with empathy to increase productivity and people’s satisfaction with work.
What we’re reading and seeing makes it difficult for us to confirm that adequate time is being spent figuring out how to measure correctly especially if the skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed for success in the real world are not accounted for actively and the focus is on measuring key strokes and web pages accessed. The latter is needed and valuable but not at the exclusion of the former.
We believe those of us involved in development and coaching need to make sure that time spent developing oneself, and others is both measured and rewarded. Interestingly, one of our goals in building our on-demand coaching solutions is to design them for quick and easy access. This limits the need for lengthy searches and provides direct access to essential coaching content/support. Development time is reduced and speeds the acquisition of insights and advice that quickly eliminates workplace obstacles and improves productivity – the affects of which will be measured and accounted for in concurrent measurement systems. A definite “win/win.”
When it comes to measuring and development we need to find some relevant “middle ground” – a place that respects and encourages development and measures and rewards current and future contributions.
Here’s a suggestion:
Please share your current workplace insights and experiences with us. If you’re in the surveillance/performance management field, we’d especially like to hear from you. Have you found a way to measure the thinking and coaching so vital to connection and productivity? After all, if Amazon newest stores can track what people pull off shelves and put back, there has to be hope that we can figure out how to help people change their minds, expand their thinking, explore, discover, and get credit for the most important aspect of their jobs — growing themselves and others.