“You’d be remiss if you knowingly allowed employees with propensities for physical injury to move heavy machinery. The economic risks of cognitive liability call for comparable precaution.”
The comment came from Michael Schrage (left), research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, and Harvard Business Review blogger. In an article titled, Are Your Most Talented People Losing Their Minds? Schrage notes how easy it is for employers to track time, attendance and location.
Meanwhile, tests for cognitive impairment, and tests for the onset, or prediction of, cognitive diminishment continue to improve. With an aging workforce and a more reliable battery of tests, can employers ignore potential predictors of reduced performance? In a knowledge-based organization, in fact, Schrage asks: “Aren’t you ethically obligated to find that out?”
That’s quite a dilemma, and the implications are scary. As a manager, do you continue to carry people whose productivity will diminish? Or as an employee, do you find yourself sidelined, or worse, because you fail some stupid head test?
Although not addressing Schrage’s specific issue, authors Bill Jensen (@simpletonbill) and Josh Klein (@joshuaklein) say business is “aggressively monitoring and capturing your digital footprint.” Their book, Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results, says that even with the “best intentions, anyone who tracks your data without really knowing you can misinterpret what they’re seeing and really mess up your life.”
They argue that even with reams of data, companies still cannot use it effectively. They cited a Human Capital Institute survey that found half of the firms they looked at can’t connect performance data on employees with skills required for the job.
So should employers be trusted with your information, Klein & Jensen ask. Their answer:
“Remember, this is the gang who thought they were on top of financial and credit risks just months before the bottom fell out!”
- Negotiate the deal: Most companies hide how they build employees’ digital profiles. Although still rare, new hires are beginning to ask up front.
- Up the positives: Most people know how to finagle positive reviews on their personal social networks. Do the same at work. If response times are tracked, get good comments about response time from your most important customers. Then, send those to the boss or, better yet, put them online where they can be found.
- Reduce the size of your digital footprint: Use non-company tools such as open source software, Google Docs, etc.
Clearly, their next piece of advice needs to be how to hack cognitive prediction tests.