Fitness Trackers Set Precedent for Work Performance Management

Last week, Microsoft joined Fitbit, Nike, Jawbone, Samsung, Garmin and just about every other electronic gadget maker in the fitness tracker craze. Over 3.5M fitness bands can be found in U.S. households, and unit sales continue to grow over 500% year-over-year (source). Clearly consumers have demonstrated the desire for performance measurement tools like the Fitbit in their personal lives. However, business managers should also take notice of the lessons learned from fitness trackers.

With a fitness tracker, you can establish a baseline, automatically track your daily activity, and hold yourself accountable for your progress. For companies, a “work fitness tracker” would allow employees to measure personal improvement over time, eliminate self-reporting, and increase engagement through real-time peer-comparison. In less obscure terms, a “work fitness tracker” would resemble “performance analytics”, but with real-time dashboards specifically designed for each employee.

A good “work fitness tracker” should include the following features:

Real-Time Activity Monitoring – If your fitness tracker had an overnight delay on your step count report, then you would never know if you need to take a few more steps today. A “work fitness tracker” needs to deliver clean, reliable, and consistent performance measurement in “real-time” so associates can brag about successes, or request “in the moment” coaching while activity is fresh.

Process Categorization – Good fitness trackers can tell the difference between a high-impact workout and a casual stroll through the parking lot. In the office, all activities do not generate the same productive value. Productivity is more than a daily report on widgets produced or claims processed. Some widgets are harder to make, and some claims are harder to process. If the only basis for evaluation is NET production, then workers are incented to tackle the fastest and easiest work units, instead of the most valuable tasks. To evaluate “true” productivity, activities and processes should be categorized to identify time and throughput of high-value activities.

Bottlenecks – Are there tasks that drain an unnecessary amount of time for little benefit? Good work performance management should be able to identify processes and applications that slow down performance. If only a subset of workers are dragged down by a slow process, then training from “top performers” may help. If the sluggish process is universal, then a replacement application, new workflow, or automation may be necessary.

Automated Data Collection – Improved visibility should not require hours of manual data-entry. Fitness trackers are popular because, in general, they don’t require any additional effort to track activity. Speaking with a potential health insurance customer last week, I was shocked to learn that their claims processors spend about an hour per day self-reporting on their activity. Within the last two years, both McKinsey and IDC posted similar summaries on back-office reporting, but the time drain was closer to 20% of NET FTE hours.

Every minute that an associate wastes cataloging their actions, is a minute that they are unable to add value to your company. In addition, self-reporting is subjective, potentially inaccurate, and rarely consistent. Instead of forcing workers to prove their worth through laborious activity logging, collect the data automatically via remote desktop analytics, speech/text analytics, geolocation, or the wide range of measurement technologies relevant to your industry.

Historical Performance – Experience and tenure should lead to increased efficiency. Workers should have on-demand statistics on how their performance has changed over time. They should not be left in the dark until periodic performance reviews to learn how they have progressed compared to their goals. In addition, managers should know if performance has suffered due to a new initiative, application, or process.

Leaderboards – People have an intrinsic desire to compete, and most trackers have social functions that allow friends to motivate each other. A valuable “work fitness tracker” highlights performance achievements to identify & reward top performers, socializes metrics your company cares about, and “gamifies” the workplace.

The concept of “gamification” in the workplace has grown in popularity over the few couple years. If you remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, gamification works by fulfilling our need for esteem and self-actualization.

“Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance. But if you want engagement, self-direction works better.” – Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation, TEDGlobal 2009

While a carrot and stick approach to management attacks an employee’s primal need for safety in the form of a steady paycheck, leaderboards and peer-recognition fulfil people’s higher-level need for engagement, achievement, and respect. In his TED Talk on motivation, Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, does a great job explaining the social science behind intrinsic motivation, and how it leads to quantifiable performance improvements.

Socialized performance achievements via simple interactive leaderboards and improvement graphs are an easy way to tap into this intrinsic motivation. In addition, they provide an easy forum to highlight activities your company deems to be high-value.

Find Your Work Fitness Tracker Now

The bottom line is that people want to be engaged, and they want their efforts to be recognized. Fitness trackers accomplish this for healthy living, but similar features can be used in the office for intrinsic motivation, increased performance, and less reliance on self-reporting.

There are a variety of remote analytics software suites that can scale to a wide range of budgets, industries, and back-end systems on the market today. Real-time workforce analytics software like WorkiQ from OpenConnect, for example, can be fully deployed within a week with ROI in less than 90 days. To learn more about workforce analytics and WorkiQ, please visit openconnect.com/workiq.

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Gratitude

As we approach the Holidays, the days are shorter, lines are longer and deadlines come quickly.  We think about our family, our friends we share the year with and the things to be thankful for.  We even take notice of those less fortunate – food banks, shelters, coat drives – all have increased activity during this season.  These are all good things.

Here at our office, we too are giving of ourselves sponsoring children and families with our own Salvation Army Angel Tree.  It feels good to be fortunate, but feels even better to give to others.  If you are able, share your gratitude with the charity of your choice.

As we continue on the home stretch of 2014, we are grateful for many things – but certainly grateful for YOU, our customers.  We have a long history and continue to grow, all because of our partnerships with you.  We truly appreciate you!

Here’s to continued gratitude and success for 2015!