Emotion sensing technologies
When it comes to emotion sensing technologies, one might say that this is also an area under Wellness Apps. Nevertheless, the thing is, that this just stands out so much that it needs to have its own category. In the 2018 spring issue of MITSloan Management Review emotion sensing technologies are described as being able to help employees make better decisions, improve concentration, and adopt healthier and more productive work styles. And yes, that is exactly what they can do.
Today we can measure stress by having employees using pressure-sensitive keyboard; asking day-traders to wear a bracelet in order not to get auction-fever; using webcam to measure your pulse; combining your mobile phone data, weather data and your dispositions of individual to detect stress. Other technologies can detect your boredom from mobile phone usage, and thereby enable boredom-triggered proactive recommender systems.
Lastly, we have companies that developed a system using employee badges to track who you talk to, how long you talk, and the tone of voice. These measures all require wearables. But be not disappointed. Researchers have also found a way of measuring our stress by using already-there-for-use Wi-Fi-signals, by seeing how the signals are projected back from our body. It does not smell of a roboboss – it stinks now! And these are just some of the many emotion sensing technologies. There are many, many more.
The paradox of ethics, morale, data…
But what about the ethics, the morale and the use of data? I am happy to see that the authors of the article in MITSloan are quick to say that companies must address important privacy issues when considering emotion sensing technologies. Even though a roboboss could be a good idea, it requires a good dialogue with all stakeholders. Of course, the matters of costs and complexity also need to be addressed, but the key part is the privacy related barriers. This obviously also goes for the use of different HR analytics.
Many people are skeptical about the use of their data – a skepticism that often relates to the question of who will get access to the data and what the data is used for. Here, you might speculate that concerns of privacy will not be a problem when the people being measured are the beneficiaries and when disclosure is voluntary. Nevertheless, the authors of the MITSloan article postulate three important things: 1) Be sensitive to employee concerns; 2) Develop data governance agreements; 3) Assure employees in written agreements that emotional data will be used only for specific business goals.
Make data agreements – that people read!
The paradox in this is that there is such a big need for the agreement on data in the workplace, when it at the same time does not seem to be a problem when we are in our homes and joining different SoMe-platforms. Everybody just clicks ‘yes’ when accepting the terms of service of e.g. Facebook. This also goes under the name: “The biggest lie on the internet”, and has several times being underlined in different studies, one being that 98% of people are willing to give up their first-born child to use a service. To quote the MITSloan article a last time, the paradox is that: “[s]ocial media itself has conditioned us to accept and even embrace new levels of personal transparency. The challenge will be to introduce new devices and measures into workplaces in a way that empowers performance, mitigates privacy concerns, and generally reassures employees that the benefits are mutual. “
This gives food for thought, and at the same gives me the option for giving you a break. I have much more to say in part two, and will continue around the policy and research within this field, high tech vs. high touch, and management vs. leadership.