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Radio Appearance on The Takeaway – Data Collection at Amazon.com

Amazon.com has been getting a bad rap in the news lately regarding its workplace policies. Employee monitoring, open criticism, insensitivity, and long hours are some of the controversial practices that are out in the open since the recent NYT investigation.

Amazon.com is a high-performance, data-driven employer. They use software to castigate/praise their workforce, to track employee whereabouts, and to track performance.

This might sound kind of off-putting to most, but the kind of data tracking that Amazon.com does, while extreme in many cases, is used to help them make better decisions.

Employee data tracking certainly can be invasive depending on the type and the way that it is presented or used but it doesn’t have to be. Employee data collection comes in many forms and is useful on many levels. For example, electronically tracking when employees clock in and out is useful both in making payroll quicker and billing more accurate and visible. This isn’t about spying on anybody, it’s just about efficiency.

In last week’s, The Takeaway, John Hockenberry interviewed Timesheets.com president, Joel Slatis, and Andrew McAfee, associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, about whether big data is the new big brother of the workplace.

“We don’t actually track you on a second to second basis… We track when you clock in or clock out or, if you were recording time for billable purposes, you would say, ‘well, I worked 5 hours on this job’… but it’s not so big brothery that it’s tracking you just along the way, all the time.” – Joel Slatis

Data tracking of this type is nice for employees too since they can check their timesheets online and see their hours for the period as well as their time-off balances. As long as the data is presented in the right way, employees tend to embrace the data because it is helpful for them too.

“In general, most of us like to know how we’re doing and we would like to be able to do better at it, and visualizations of the evidence and the data are potentially a great tool for allowing that.” Andrew McAfee

Before being afraid of big data just because of the hype, employers and employees should consider the purpose of the data and how it can be helpful. Improved performance, better decision making, and saved time and money are all worth considering opening up to this new way of doing business.

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