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Leading a quantified organisation

A guide for CEOs

The vast increase in passive data being captured digitally, amid the backdrop of an ongoing tug of war between CEOs and their workforce over returning to office, is raising serious questions about digital tracking, measurement and ultimately trust.

Over four years after the pandemic began, the in-office versus remote debate continues and many CEOs are searching for ways to bring some reluctant workers back into offices, often citing company culture, collaboration and productivity as reasons to return. Scepticism abounds among some leaders about the effectiveness of remote working and some CEOs have resorted to mandating and even tracking office attendance. From badging data to keystrokes and email activity, more activities and interactions at work are leaving a digital trail. What leaders do with this data can have a big impact (good or bad) on the effectiveness of their workforce.

Over the past several years, as the nature of work has increasingly shifted online and technology continues to advance, more companies are looking to gain insights from the vast amounts of passive data that are increasingly being captured digitally as workers (both human and machine) engage with each other and with their work. According to one study, 78% of employers surveyed are using remote tools to collect data on their employees. While it may be tempting for some leaders to use this data to measure presence and activity, this approach may risk eroding trust, alienating workers, andundermining productivity. 

But when done with attention to trust and transparency, tapping into passive work and workforce data can unlock greater organisational value, leading to an increase in customer satisfaction; an increase in innovation; and a happier, healthier, more effective workforce. 

CEOs can achieve this by building a “quantified organisation”: an organisation that takes a strategic approach to measuring what it should, not what it can, taking a responsible approach to using new data sources and AI tools to create value for stakeholders across the organisation.

The promise and pitfalls of measurement

The potential use cases of the quantified organisation are vast and evolving. These include the ability to improve safety and well-being, optimise physical space, redesign work, increase collaboration, improve interactions, improve diversity, identify hidden talent and strengthen organisational cultures. These use cases are enabled by data that companies have today (e.g., email, phone/video meetings, location data, biometrics), technology and tools that exist today (e.g., organisational network analysis, natural language, processing) and technology that is emerging (e.g., neurotechnology and biometrics).

In many cases, organisations are often measuring what they can measure (because it’s available and easy), rather than what they should measure in order to achieve real organisational benefits. It may be tempting to pick low-hanging fruit, but this can bring risk and often leads to measuring (and thereby managing) things that may not advance an organisation, such as proxies for productivity. Often companies that track this data are not transparent about it and can lose trust when employees find out. What’s more, even if companies are open about what they are tracking and how it’s being used, workers may be incentivised to work toward the wrong metrics (e.g., hours or presenteeism, instead of outcomes).

For more information download the Deloitte guide, Leading a quantified organisation: A guide for CEOs

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