The type of data profiling used by retailers and advertisers could soon become commonplace in the workplace, according to the second in PwC’s Future of Work series. The report: ‘The future of work: A journey to 2022’ reveals that nearly a third of people would be happy for their employer to have access to their personal data, such as social media profiles. This data could be used by employers to understand what motivates their workforce, reasons why people might move jobs and to improve employee well-being. 

PwC predicts that this kind of data monitoring of employees is set to rise over the next decade as Generation Y enters the workforce – by 2020 this generation will form half of the global workforce and bring with them their different attitudes to technology and personal data. The research reveals that the younger generation are more open to sharing their personal data with their employees, with 36% of Generation Y workers saying they would be happy to do so. 

PwC’s report reveals a number of projections for what the future of work might look like, based on a survey of 10,000 workers (2,000 in the UK) and 500 HR professionals globally. Technology is seen by both workers and HR professionals as the biggest factor that will transform the workplace over the next five to 10 years, ahead of shifts in demographics, the economy and availability of resources. Over half (58%) of HR professionals said they are already preparing for this shift, while a further quarter said they were already prepared. 

Anthony Bruce, HR workforce analytics leader at PwC, said: “Just as advertisers and retailers are using data from customers’ online and social media activity to tailor their shopping experience, organisations could soon start using workers’ personal data (with their permission) to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues. This sort of data profiling could also extend to real-time monitoring of employees’ health, with proactive health guidance to help reduce sick leave.

“Key to the success of organisations being able to use employee data will be developing measurable benefits for those who hand over their data and building trust through clear rules about how data is acquired, used and shared. 

“Our research reveals that employees are more open to sharing their personal data than previously thought. The millennial generation of workers are particularly happy to share their data meaning this kind of data monitoring by organisations could become routine in the years to come. 

“HR teams are already gearing up for these changes and are increasingly using data analytics to spot retention and performance issues. The main challenge for organisations will be convincing employees that the price of handing over their data and monitoring is one worth paying.” 

While the research reveals that the majority of workers (64%) view technology advances as improving their job prospects, 12% are worried are worried about the impact it will have on their jobs. For example, a quarter of workers are worried that automation is putting their job at risk. 

Digital transformation is also disrupting the traditional nine to five office environment as people are now contactable 24/7. While this shift brings some people the flexibility they desire, to others it represents their work-life balance being invaded. PwC’s research reveals over half (59%) of people are prepared to always be available and contactable via technology in return for secure employment. This rises to nearly two thirds (64%) of Generation Y workers. 

Anthony Bruce, HR workforce analytics leader at PwC, said:  “Technology will continue to transform how we will work over the next decade. While many workers will embrace these changes, organisations need to be mindful of the potential disruption to people’s lives.

“Managers need to develop a clear culture where technology works for everyone. This isn’t about having a blanket ban on when systems should be turned off, it is about creating the right culture so people can use technology to enhance their lives but also have control about when they choose to do so. 

“Data and quantitative insights are becoming an increasingly important way for organisations to understand, predict and meet the market and workforce challenges they face.”