Should HR Be the ‘Center of Excellence’ For Productivity?

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Since many of us now spend our days fully immersed in a digital workplace it seems possible that some kind of app could track what we do and give us insight into how to be more productive.

To take the simplest possible example, if an app warned us that the “10 minutes a day” we thought we spent looking at Facebook is actually more like 60 minutes a day — well, that would explain why we are so stressed by our lack of time. A less frivolous example would be a programmer tracking how much time they spend coding on their core deliverable versus how much time they spend on emails, meetings and other distractions.

Sapience is one such app and it’s a window into a future where we as individual knowledge workers — and our managers — get helpful data on how we could be more productive. For the individual it is mainly about identifying what takes us away from high priority work and highlighting practices that harm efficiency like multitasking. For managers, the data can be helpful in understanding workload which will lead to better decisions on how to allocate work and how to staff teams with the right headcount.

An important question is who in the organization should be responsible for introducing these new productivity apps? It would most likely start with individual managers, but just as one wants “center of excellence” expertise in hiring and in training, surely we want similar expertise to determine what productivity apps to use and how we should use them.

This role doesn’t really exist now in HR, however there is a name for it: “Organizational Performance Engineer.”  The CHREATE team of CHROs and thought leaders has been envisioning the future of the profession and they have identified the organizational performance engineer as a future role. This kind of tool that Sapience represents, is exactly the reason we need this role.

What is interesting?

  • It will be interesting to see whether HR seeks out the role of Organizational Performance Engineer or sticks to more traditional work.

What is really important?

  • It matters a lot whether organizations see these tools as ways for individuals and teams to improve their own performance or as tools for managers to control performance.
  • Just as digital marketing provided insights of great value to advertisers, so too a digital workplace may offer fresh insights on productivity to knowledge workers and their teams.

Note to readers: While I love all these innovative firms discussed in these columns, some are small start-ups, and a mention is not necessarily an endorsement that their product is right for you.

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