If you speak to knowledgeable people in the manufacturing industry, they will tell you we’ve entered the 4th industrial revolution – the age of automated systems and AI; the age that George Orwell predicted, heralding the arrival of a virtual ‘big brother’ in the workplace. For years science fiction films have predicated this future: the arrival of the machine; the subjugation of humans; and more importantly, the exit of human emotion. But just how likely is this, and how can we, as humans, avoid falling into this science fiction pitfall?
Interestingly, the foreboding of this era comes as part and parcel of the rapid globalization of tech companies worldwide, an example of which is Apple’s entry into the trillion–dollar club. This, combined with the massive increase of, and concerns about, smartphone technology and social media, has led us into a 24–hour society that not everyone is comfortable with. As is always the case, these technological and social advancements have both advantages and disadvantages, and a major disadvantage, certainly for healthcare practitioners, appears to be our Mental Health. Indeed, Bupa recently stated: “Issues like body image insecurity and feeling anxious aren’t new, but it seems social media may be a way of pouring gas on the fire”.
In the UK alone, prescriptions of anti-depressants rose 108.5% between 2006 and 2016, whilst its estimated that 1 in 6 people are now affected by poor mental health, according to the BBC. So, it would be foolish to believe that Mental Health issues are not on the rise, particularly with the BBC releasing programmes on Mental Health, like the one involving the future King of England talking about Mental Health concerns with Professional footballers, managers and coaches, namely “A Royal Team Talk”. It’s clear then that society as a whole is also awakening to this global epidemic.
So, as the pathways of Industry 4.0 and the Mental Health epidemic collide, what can we learn from the many science fiction films predicting this future? It’s known that becoming a data-led and/or data-driven organisation can have a major effect on the bottom line and stop the HiPPO effect (Highest Paid Persons Opinion), but what sort of data do we currently collect to drive change? Business-centric data tends to be based around processes rather than the people that are part of those processes, whether that is a production line, a supply chain, or footfall through a shopping mall. You only have to look at six-sigma analysis to understand this.
However, if you speak to any CEO, they will tell you that the success of any organisation is built on the people that work there. Recent thinking has led us away from being simply customer-centric, to being employee-centric, on the premise that if our employees are happy, they will in turn treat our customers well and make our customers happier to deal with us. So, this begs the question – why do none of the statistics we collect consider our internal human processes, such as emotions and mental health, and the impact this potentially has on our business outcomes?
If you talk to ‘employee-centric’ companies, they’ll say that they are all about culture, values, and a ‘meaning’ to the work environment. And what’s wrong with that? In fact, new graduates now state that they prefer a meaningful job and a fulfilling career over being well-off. Companies talk about ‘empowering the knowledge-based worker’ and that, if employees are kept happy, then they will deliver more than expected. But how can companies achieve this without meaningful data about how happy their employees truly are? If this is the key measure, why is there no data to underpin it? Wouldn’t it be useful if we could understand the impact a business decision has on the emotions and mental health of our employees, and in turn understand how this will affect our core business outcomes? It might actually affect decision-making or, in some cases, lead to decisions being reversed.
If this knowledge has such a massive effect and can effectively cloud judgement around our long-term business vision, surely, we should be doing something about it? Management Theorist Simon Sinek talks extensively about different leadership techniques, like how a manager will make you feel ‘safe’, and that our decisions are based on more than just data, but on feelings as well. Apple use this effectively all the time, to market to human emotions. In fact, looking back, so have Coca Cola, Samsung, Mercedes, Amazon…., the list is endless. All of these companies look at human emotions as represented by data all the time, but this is about the tracking and understanding of the public view, customers and prospects – people they do not know – not employees. Obviously, we must be wary of developing a workforce version of Cambridge Analytica, but surely, we can begin to use data to understand the role that our employees’ emotions have on our bottom-line, which should, in turn, inform our boardroom decisions. Should we not be trying to understand the current ‘feel’ of the organisation, and utilise this positively in the boardroom, instead of trying to remove it completely?
At the end of the day, if we’re so against the vision of a bunch of robots with Austrian accents running our boardrooms, we need to find ways to combine data about human emotions with classic business data, and begin to move towards a far more efficient, ‘real-world’, all-encompassing-data-centric organisation.
If you would like to discuss how data can be used to measure the mental health of your employees then please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or visit evolyst.com