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Companies reluctant to gather behavior data from collaboration apps due to employee privacy concerns may feel justified in their caution based on recent news out of the White House, which in early May began seeking input from employees and employers about their respective experiences and usage of productivity monitoring. But it would be a mistake to conflate gathering insights from the collaboration ecosystem with using the type of productivity monitoring coming under scrutiny.

Productivity monitoring, also known as digital activity, employee, or user activity monitoring, essentially serves to track and collect an employee’s real-time actions and behavior data on company networks, connected devices, and monitored workstations. As has been much publicized, employees are calling foul on the use of such tools for what they consider to be individualized surveillance… hence the Biden administration’s investigation.

With collaboration insights, companies aim to discover how the use of collaboration apps—particularly video meeting tools and team collaboration apps—affect key business metrics, including productivity, and inform policy setting and decision making. Employee data is depersonalized, presented in aggregate for employee behavior trends analysis and correlations by team managers and business leaders. For individuals themselves, some tools will surface data-based guidance for improving their own behaviors known to hinder productivity or lead to burn-out, for example.

Viewed in aggregate, collaboration behavior data provides information such as average attendees per meeting, number of meetings per hour and per day, average and total meeting duration, meeting trends over a specified time, average and total speaking time per participant, and so on. Team managers and others can explore collaboration behavior to address any number of questions, such as:

How often are team members meeting, and are they all actively engaged throughout meetings or are most just listening in? Perhaps not all team members need to participate in every meeting, but rather can read the meeting transcript or meeting summary while devoting meeting time to other tasks.

Are employees frequently on team chat or video meetings after hours and on weekends? Well-being will take a hit with prolonged periods of extended work hours. Is a project understaffed? Are the deadlines unrealistic?

Are managers spending hour after hour in meetings, but not with their teams? This could lead to a feeling of being undervalued and unheard, hurting team relationships and company culture. It could also lead to a stall on productivity, as team members wait for guidance. Managers can learn from the positive behaviors of those with the most productive teams.

With the ability to derive these sorts of insights, interest in gathering employee behavior data as part of an employee experience strategy is high, as shown in Metrigy’s Employee Experience & Workplace Engagement: 2022-23 global study. Among the 250 participating companies, 58.3% already are using or are planning to use team collaboration data to better understand the employee experience, while 52.2% say the same of video meetings data. Two-thirds of companies share or plan to share de-personalized team member data with managers, and slightly fewer are or will do so with company leaders. Close to 54% provide or will provide a personalized view for individual use only.

Most companies report that they’ve not encountered any data privacy concerns around the use of employee experience applications, tools, or platforms, including collaboration insights. Most handle with a multipronged approach:

  • 69.7% – Clearly articulate corporate policy on data privacy and usage
  • 69.7% – Use policy-based rules within employee experience tools to assure personal data is never shared
  • 60.6% – Train on data privacy and usage
  • 57.6% – Train on the tools, including how-it works demos to show how data is and isn’t used

Leading edge companies are starting to combine the employee behavior data they glean from collaboration apps with the employee engagement data they gather through traditional mechanisms like the annual survey or quick pulse polls. Companies sitting out on tapping into collaboration insights may find themselves falling behind on understanding the big picture around employee experience.