The New Ways Your Boss Is Spying on You

Your employer may know a lot more about you than you think.

The tone of your voice in a meeting. How often you’re away from your desk. How quickly you respond to emails. Where you roam in the office. What’s on your computer screen.

To be an employee of a large company in the U.S. now often means becoming a workforce data generator—from the first email sent from bed in the morning to the Wi-Fi hotspot used during lunch to the new business contact added before going home. Employers are parsing those interactions to learn who is influential, which teams are most productive and who is a flight risk.

Companies, which have wide legal latitude in the U.S. to monitor workers, don’t always tell them what they are tracking. When executives at McKesson Corp. wanted to know why some of its teams had higher turnover the pharmaceutical wholesaler last year worked with a people analytics startup to examine data on the sender, recipient and timing of over 130 million emails—not the content of the messages—from more than 20,000 U.S. employees to see what dots it could connect about relationships.

The analytics firm, TrustSphere, found that teams with lower turnover typically had a diverse mix of internal connections up and down the chain of command inside the company and with external contacts, while teams with higher turnover had stronger relationships outside the company and weaker relationships with colleagues at their level or lower inside the firm. McKesson says it only looked at groups of workers, not individual employees out of respect for worker privacy and opted not to disclose the analysis to employees at the time because it did not look at email content.

“The beauty of what we’re getting out of this is information to make our teams function better,” says R.J. Milnor, vice president, workforce planning and analytics at McKesson.

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