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article imageOp-Ed: Human Performance Analytics — Naivete with body sensors

By Paul Wallis     Aug 16, 2015 in Technology
London - It’s here! It’s new! It’s insane! It’s wearable BS! Apparently not content with a management culture which never goes anywhere near a workspace, Human Performance Analytics bio tracking will tell managers what employees are doing
This new insult to humanity has a track record in sports and military tech. It’s also called “human optimization.” You can see where it’s going already from that catchy, totally unbelievable, phrase, right?
Sez Bloomberg:
The future of the high-performance workplace is taking shape behind closed doors and kept quiet by non-disclosure agreements.
Across Britain, hedge funds, banks, call centres and consultancies are installing tracking systems to link bio-sensing wearable devices with analytics tools once the preserve of elite sports.
(Read the Bloomberg article for an interesting insight in to the total disconnect between this obsessive mindset and reality.)
“Behind closed doors,” eh? How unexpected. Apparently those behind this new gig for tech which will be obsolete in about two years, if not already, don’t want to deal with accusations of intrusiveness. It’s already being used by those paragons of sanity, hedge funds. The idea is to give successful traders and high achievers an advantage. Yes, it’s a logical oxymoron, aimed at egos which should know better.
This new bit of hardware tracks cognitive performance, too. It tracks stress, heart rate, skin temperature and, if you please, body position. It also does voice analysis and tracks who you're talking to. Reassuring, eh?
Now the big plus for managers — as well as abrogating your own judgement, you can keep track of your employees with all sorts of data, too, whether you understand the data or not. For the high flyers, it’s being called self-augmentation. Never mind the fact that you achieved all that without these LEGO rejects, you need to have an edge.
Why not just put bells on the employees and have done with it? How desperate for information about your employees would you have to be to need this junk?
The joke is that information about people actually doing real work in the real world will be sent to people like finance company management. The same “conspicuously unarrested” people who gave the world all those financial disasters will now be able to track people in real time.
They’ll also be able to solemnly and nitpickingly find more reasons for firing people and stressing them out for no particular reason, like they do now. Imagine this collection of subhuman lowlifes with the ability to monitor people in real time.
This is beyond Orwell. It’s a sort of final expression of the total failure of management science to even recognize the role of managers in actually managing. This new approach is called “evidence based” performance monitoring. How much evidence do you need to know whether someone’s performing? Why do you spend more time finding ways of criticizing and demeaning employees and creating new obstacle courses for staff than actually doing business?
Now the other joke — machines malfunction, too. Readings can be wrong. Electromagnetic environments affect sensors. Interpretations of data aren’t necessarily honest. There’s nothing in this technology which could remotely be considered trustworthy.
Nor is this very basic tech infallible. Heart monitors can be way off. So can a lot of other electronic metrics. The quality of this type of equipment is always highly suspect in medical circles.
Then there’s the usual hardware guys ripoff — made in China for $4.99, sold in the States to some self-infatuated idiot for $499, and of course, it doesn’t work. It will be as out of date as an old iPhone in 12 months at most.
I have long been of the opinion that the people who believe in this sort of half-baked tech should be in special sheltered workshops for the highly educated, rich, and pointless. In these shelters they can be taught to try and grasp the basic theory of using their brains, and perhaps some light basket weaving.
This is a total wank at best as a management tool. Unless this tech is really top quality and really stringently evaluated for some actually useful purpose, it’s not worth even considering.
More interestingly, the privacy issues here could generate fabulous class actions. Tracking a medical condition alone could be considered invasion of privacy. It’s not against the law to have a medical condition. Nor is pregnancy, which would give some interesting readouts with accurate sensors. Are women going to be penalized for pregnancy, menstruation, or whatever, as “performance issues”?
Another Bloomberg article, endearingly if patronizingly entitled “Raging bull markets: How young men’s hormones unsettle finance,” also refers to male hormones. Are your hormonal levels private? Should they be? Would you trust a professional competitor or a charming colleague with that information, particularly if it reflects badly on your performance?
This idea has a long way to go to sell to anyone who actually thinks it through.
At worst, it’s going to be yet another useless set of metrics being sent to useless, nasty middle management organization people who don’t get the metrics and can’t do analytics but love making life tough for staff.
At best, it’s a sort of biological audit trail for human beings which might have some real value in OHS and for emergency workers or people required to work in high stress environments.
Now a point which will ring true with experienced managers — what’s the point of giving more iffy information to morons who seem to spend their lives and your time and money proving they can’t handle any kind of information?
Lose the whole damn idea, until it knows how to manage itself. It obviously doesn’t at the moment, judging by this halfass mess of metrics and lack of insight in to the real world objections to it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Human Performance Analytics, biotracking sensors, tracking employees privacy issues, Analytics metrics, Neuroscience
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