It’s over a decade now since Michael Lewis brought the theory of moneyball to the public consciousness. His book (of the same name) chronicles the Oakland Athletics baseball team, and in particular their manager Billy Beane, who used a statistical approach to player recruitment that allowed his team to perform considerably better than expectations.
After the publication of Lewis’ book, this kind of statistical approach to talent management quickly spread throughout the sporting world. As a greater range of employee analytics tools have begun entering the workplace, however, the moneyball approach has begun to take hold in offices throughout the land.
A prime example of this in action comes via the MIT spinout Sociometric Solutions. They use a range of devices to track and monitor employee behaviour, all with the aim of providing managers with a host of insights that they can use to boost productivity.
“‘Moneyball’ is putting numbers on behavior and using that data to build a baseball team. But what if I could say, ‘Here’s how you need to talk to customers, here’s how people need to collaborate with each other, and here are the things that lead to outcomes such as turnover, sales, and job satisfaction,’” the founders say. “Individuals can use that data to boost performance, and a company can use that to help set up an environment where everybody’s going to succeed.”
A name badge with a difference
Central to the system is an ID badge that employees wear. The badge comes with a number of sensors built into it, which can measure things such as the location of the wearer, and even the direction they’re currently facing. They can also track whether you’re talking with someone and even the energy levels of staff. They also offer microphones to monitor how you’re talking, the speed and even the tone of your voice.
Suffice to say, all of these sensors have the ability to produce a lot of data. The belief is that this data can be combined with the information gained from things such as performance reviews to give employers a more rounded picture of each employee.
Whilst it may sound a bit like Big Brother gone mad, the system is already in place in over 20 organisations, with managers apparently rather pleased with the insights the system is providing. For example, in one deployment, the company discovered that employees were happier when they ate lunch with more colleagues, which in turn made them more engaged at work. This resulted in the company using longer tables in the cafeteria to help facilitate larger lunch groups, which resulted in a productivity boost of around 36%.
“It’s crazy that something as trivial as physical space, as the size of the lunch table, could affect productivity,” the founders say. “The CEO obviously wasn’t thinking about that, but those are the biggest drivers of how people communicate with one another.”
How would you feel if something like this was installed in your own workplace? Would you feel as though you’re being spied upon or would you welcome the insights into how you could work more effectively?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.