There's a Time and Place for Sharing Data

Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

I hear what Jennifer Golbeck is saying. While I love that Netflix recommends movies I might like to watch, and I am equally happy when Amazon makes shopping recommendations, I understand it can be disconcerting when the same online behaviors that drive actions like those end up telling retailers more about us than we might like.

However, as Benjamin Franklin said, there's "a place for everything, and everything in its place," and at Bunchball, we know that in certain situations, people welcome the benefits of sharing their data. We've found that people are most likely to participate in data sharing if:

• The process is transparent. When asked to share their data, most people want to understand exactly what data will be used, why it's being used, who gets to use it, etc.

• They receive a reward in return. People want meaningful value in exchange for their data.

When the process for sharing data is transparent and linked to specific goals, most people don't mind revealing their data. And while most people understand this value at a retail level, another place where this is particularly true is when they're at work. Why? Because more and more people are beginning to recognize that data analytics can be used to make work better for both employees and managers.

As every employee knows, success in today's workplace involves interaction with a multitude of digital systems: sales force automation, social collaboration and learning management, to name just a few. Each of these contribute data about an employee's skills and performance, and taken altogether, they can form a comprehensive "360-degree" view of each employee. Employees can use this information to see where they're strong and where they need improvement. It answers the number one question employees want to know, which is "How am I doing?" Likewise, managers can use this information to field better teams and improve the work experience for their employees.

Companies are finding that by listening to what employees are telling them, both implicitly and explicitly through interacting with their systems, they can make work more productive and engaging. They're marrying big data analytics with recent research on universal human motivators in a process called gamification. But don't let that name fool you. Gamification isn't about playing games. It's about applying the same principles that have always inspired people - goals, status and rewards - to motivate employees to accomplish high-value actions.

Here are a few examples of how gamification works in the employee space:

RMH Franchise Corporation, which operates almost 140 Applebee's restaurants, has turned to gamification to engage employees and decrease employee churn. In an industry where employee turnover rates hover around 62 percent, and employee onboarding and performance-management can demand significant time and resources, RMH has made impressive strides with "Bee Block," a gamified employee website. When logged in, employees can manage their profiles, review their own data and participate in contests -which are automated and broadcast in real-time via "Bee TVs" placed strategically throughout restaurant workstations. By tapping into the motivations of its hourly workforce, Applebee's has improved employee engagement, and early results show a whopping 20 percent reduction in turnover. Additionally, check averages have gone up - leading to increased tips!

T-Mobile used gamification to address a completely different challenge. In order to provide superior customer support and issue resolution, T-Mobile needed to drive collaboration between the people who interact with new devices and customers everyday: its service and sales personnel. To that end, the mobile carrier wanted to motivate customer care and retail representatives to make T-Mobile's online social business community their go-to resource for knowledge-sharing. And with gamification, the company was able to create a flourishing community! T-Mobile dialed up employee engagement by 1,000 percent and engaged more than 30,000 frontline representatives, empowering them to more effectively respond to customers' queries because they were working better together. This resulted in improved customer care and a 6,000 percent increase in the "likes" awarded for helpfulness and accuracy on peer responses to community questions. In her TEDTalk, Jennifer says that her goal is to improve the way people interact online; gamification is helping T-Mobile do just that by improving interactions among employees with the T-Community.

As these examples show, using data at work can be practical, effective and beneficial. When the process is transparent and based on what we know about human motivation, it drives business performance and makes work better for both employees and managers.

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