HR view technology as the main workplace game-changer over the next decade

Nearly a third of young people said they would be happy for their employer to access their personal information, such as social media profiles, as a report into the future of work predicts a rise in staff data monitoring over the next decade.

PwC’s report ‘The future of work: A journey to 2022’ said that the increase in employee data analysis will be driven by employers keen to understand what affects their workforce productivity.

Employers would use this information to better understand what motivates their workforce, why talented individuals leave and how to reduce sickness absence.

The report predicts that this kind of data analysis will grow as Generation Y, who have grown up with this kind of data sharing and accept it, enter the workforce. By 2020, Gen Y (born in the 1980s and early 1990s) will make up about half of the workforce and the research showed that 36 per cent of this group said they would be happy to share personal information with their employer.

The report revealed a number of predictions for what the future of work might look like, based on a survey of 10,000 workers (2,000 in the UK) and 500 HR professionals globally. It found that technology is seen by workers and HR professionals as the biggest factor in the transformation of the workplace over the next five to 10 years.

This area of change was ranked as more influential ahead of shifts in demographics, the economy and availability of resources. More than half (58 per cent) of HR professionals said they are already preparing for this shift, while a further quarter said they were ready now.

Interestingly, the majority of workers (64 per cent) see technological advances as a way of improving their job prospects, however, 12 per cent said they are worried about the effect it will have on their jobs. For example, a quarter of workers are worried that automation is already putting their job at risk, the research revealed.

And the report said that this shift towards more reliance on digital technology is also disrupting the traditional nine to five office environment as people are now contactable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This change gives some employees the flexibility they want, while for others it means they face having their non-work hours invaded with texts, emails and phone calls from their boss or colleagues. The report said that more than half (59 per cent) of people are prepared to be always available via technology in return for secure employment and this rises to nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of Generation Y workers.

Anthony Bruce, HR workforce analytics leader at PwC, said: “Just as advertisers and retailers are using data from customers’ online and social media activity to tailor their shopping experience, organisations could soon start using workers’ personal data (with their permission) to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues. This sort of data profiling could also extend to real-time monitoring of employees’ health, with proactive health guidance to help reduce sick leave.

“Key to the success of organisations being able to use employee data will be developing measurable benefits for those who hand over their data and building trust through clear rules about how data is acquired, used and shared.”

“HR teams are already gearing up for these changes and are increasingly using data analytics to spot retention and performance issues. The main challenge for organisations will be convincing employees that the price of handing over their data and monitoring is one worth paying,” Bruce added.

This report is the second in PwC’s Future of Work research series.