Tag Archives: Creative
Earlier this year, Amazon successfully patented an “ultrasonic tracker of a worker’s hands to monitor performance of assigned tasks.” Eerie, yes, but far from the only creative method of employee surveillance. Upwork watches freelancers through their webcams, and a UK railway company recently equipped workers with a wearable that measures their energy levels. By one study’s estimate, 94 percent of organizations currently monitor workers in some way. Regulations governing such conduct are lax; they haven’t changed since the 19th century.
The most common snooping techniques are relatively subtle. A system called Teramind—which lists BNP Paribas and the telecom giant Orange as customers on its website—sends pop-up warnings if it suspects employees are about to slack off or share confidential documents. Other companies rely on tools like Hubstaff to record the websites that workers are visiting and how much they’re typing.
Such software “solutions” pitch themselves as ways to enhance productivity. But trouble emerges, critics say, when employers invest too much significance in these metrics.
That’s because data has never been able to capture the finer points of creativity and the idiosyncratic nature of work. Where one account manager might do her best thinking behind a desk, another knows he’s sharpest on an afternoon stroll—a behavior that algorithms could blithely declare deviant. This then creates “a hidden layer of management,” says Jason Schultz, director of the NYU School of Law’s Technology Law & Policy Clinic. Those midday walkers might never find out why they’ve been passed over for a promotion. Once established, the image of the “ideal” employee sticks.
Try to hide from this all-seeing eye of corporate America—and you might make matters worse. Even the cleverest spoofing hacks can backfire. “The more workers try to be invisible, the more managers have a hard time figuring out what’s happening, and that justifies more surveillance,” says Michel Anteby, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Boston University. He calls it the “cycle of coercive surveillance.” Translation: lose/lose.
Unless you want to be spied on. In a recent study of Uber drivers, researchers found that a monitored employee can sometimes feel “more secure than the worker who … doesn’t know if her boss knows that she is working.” NYU’s Schultz admits that a degree of oversight can galvanize commitment, but he wants a law restricting its use to workplace tasks. Others insist data should be anonymized. One model is Humanyze, a “people analytics” service that provides clients not with individualized employee reports but rather with big-picture trends. Workers are then accountable to that big picture, each contributing modest brushstrokes. Don’t paint outside the lines.
This article appears in the August issue. Subscribe now.
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We saw separately how Delta Air Lines customer service agents came up with an idea that shaves a couple of minutes off turnaround time for the airline’s jets at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
I was curious whether other lines did the same or similar thing, so I reached out to all of the Big Four. Southwest and United replied, while Delta also responded with a couple of other ideas worthy of attention.
Turnaround time is a big deal. The FAA reported in 2010 that flight delays cost the U.S. economy roughly $ 32.9 billion a year. Andit’s one of the key metrics on which airlines judge themeselves.
Here are some of the other things big airlines are doing to turn airplanes around more quickly.
45 degree pushback
This is the original idea that Delta customer service agents came up with. We’ll summarize it here: Instead of pushing an airplane straight back from the gate, then turning it 90 degrees and pushing it again, the idea is to push straight back at a 45 degree angle.
This simple change shaves about a minute or more off turnaround time, which really adds up over 1,000 or more flights a day. Delta does it at Atlanta and Detroit. And, United tells me they do a 45-degree pushback at some airports as well, “depending on a variety of factors including aircraft type and setup of gate.”
The Quick Turn Playbook
This one is all United. The airline has what it calls a “Quick Turn Playbook,” which is a proprietary document that it says outlines “how all departments work together to help reduce the amount of time it takes to service and turn an aircraft.”
“The playbook was developed with the help and input of United frontline employees,” a United spokesperson told me. “We continue to go back to employees to solicit feedback on how it can be continuously improved.”
Maybe it’s working: United ranked #1 among competitors during the Q2 of 2018 for on-time departures.
Yes, this one is limited to only one big airline–Southwest–and they were quick to point it out when I asked about turnaround tactics. Letting passengers take any open seat “saves us valuable time and keeps our aircraft moving efficiently,” as a spokesperson put it.
It’s hard to understand why other airlines don’t copy this–perhaps not on entire plans, but maybe by letting economy passengers board in order of how expensive their fares are?
Self-parking guidance systems
Both Delta and United told me they use laser-guided parking systems at some airports and gates.
Instead of an employee standing on the ground and guiding the plane in with a couple of orange flags or lights, the laser system lets the pilot know how to inch the plane up to the gate, and when to stop. That means the employees can get ready to hook airplanes up to ground power and do other tasks more quickly.
Not charging for checked bags
Again, this is just Southwest, which doesn’t charge bag fees for any passengers. That’s in contrast to economy class passengers on United, American and Delta.
As a result, on any given Southwest flight there are likely fewer people carrying bags onto the plane and trying to put them in an overhead compartment to avoid a bag fee. That means less blocking of the aisles, and a faster process.
The one they’re not doing
I found a few other interesting tactics. Ryanair, the low cost European carrier, says it cut turnaround time “dramatically” by removing seat back pockets, which means there’s no place for passengers to stick trash that has to be cleaned out.
But the interesting one is a more complicated boarding dance called the Steffen Method, after the astrophysicist who came up with it in 2014. In summary, passengers would board from the outside in: window, then middle, and then aisle. And they’d board from the back, skipping every other row.
One drawback: Travelers flying together couldn’t board together if they were really strict about the process. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t really caught on.
Adobe is a strong and active player in the marketing tech landscape. We’ve studied their solutions in market across marketing clouds, mobile analytics and acquisition tools, and marketing automation tools at VB Insight. Frankly, with so many digital marketing solutions across so many areas — audience targeting, campaign management, social media, etc. — the company has to have a sturdy analytics platform integrating those disparate, but related marketing functions. Today, the company is introducing Analysis Workspace in Adobe Analytics, a reporting and data visualization tool to better help companies communicate what’s happening across all of these channels.
Data analytics is really tricky for most companies. But it’s a critical means to an end. You can’t have great marketing — social marketing, online advertising, even customer service — without great analytics. And since marketing is increasingly becoming wildly data dependent while taking on more responsibility for the overall customer experience, the use of data analytics across any organization simply needs to proliferate.
Except there’s one big, hairy problem there.
Most companies don’t have the skills in house to make sense of all the data. McKinsey is projecting that by 2018, demand for data scientists may be as much as 60 percent greater than the supply. Suffice it to say, companies are struggling to fill this gap with adequate data talent.
In our own recent report on marketing analytics, we asked over one thousand marketers two questions on this topic:
- How effective is your marketing organization at generating insight?
- How effective is your greater organization — outside of marketing — at translating that insight into action?
Unfortunately, for most marketers, this confidence level falls somewhere between “somewhat” and “not very” effective.
Adobe is hoping its new visualization product, now available to all customers using Adobe Analytics suite, will mind that gap and help companies create better dashboards with broad business appeal — stitching together disparate data sources into a single view that makes sense for multiple lines of business — to more than just data analysts.
In a demo of the Analysis Workspace product yesterday, I saw a dashboard that’s flexible, can be built by non-data analysts, and could meet endless marketing insight functions for a business.
Above: Sample Adobe Analysis Workspace
Analysis Workspace — Highlights:
- Simple, Photoshop-inspired Workflows: Analysis Workspace lets users simply drag and drop dimensions, metrics and segments to create any type of report.
- Intuitive Data Visualizations: After dragging relevant components into an Analysis Workspace table, visualizations are applied to the table data set in real time. These visualizations can be easily manipulated, allowing users to resize, rename and swap between different charts and graphs with interactive elements — while introducing new sharing functions to better communicate insights.
Marketing dashboards are a dime a dozen. With over 800 tools in market supporting marketing data analytics, and plans for companies of all sizes to massively increase spend on analytics, one can’t overstate the importance of making sense of all this data. Adobe is hoping its latest product will help the non-data scientist come up to speed with marketing data.
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