Workforce Technology Assessment Is Really Workforce Behavioral Science . . .

Richard H. Thaler, professor of economics and occasional writer for The New York Times, wrote on Sunday about how he and other behavioral scientists are helping the UK government use behavioral data to form better policies. See their "Test, Adapt, Learn: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials"  paper for more details.

Thaler has created and cites two principles that help policy makers create good policies that work for normal people:

  • "If you want to encourage some activity, make it easy."
  • "You can't make evidence-based policy decisions without evidence."

Wow. These are exactly the principles that CIOs should apply when making decisions and rolling out a workforce technology, be it a social business and collaboration strategy, hardware refresh, tablet deployment, teleworking strategy, desktop virtualization program, or any other technology program that touches a lot of employees. Here's what Thaler's evidence principle has to say in these cases:

  • You can't make sound (he calls them evidence-based) decisions about what different employee segments (groups, classes, personas) need without evidence of how they work, what they need, and how they use technology. In other words, get evidence -- data -- on the working behavior of your organization's workforce.
  • You can't make sound decisions on how to provision devices, apps, and service to those 3-5 employee segments without evidence that the tools will be adopted and used, that you understand potential barriers, that you have anticipated the changes needed. Behavior again. This time you need data on technology behaviors and learning behaviors.
  • You can't convince your network or security or collaboration or desktop stakeholders to collaborate in service of these different employee segments without evidence that the payoff will be there. Behavior once more. Evidence of the behaviors that drive your organization forward: productivity, sales rates, customer engagement metrics, satisfaction.

Then there's the simplicity principle. Apple, Dropbox, Google, and Skype are training us all to expect simple. So the technology must be easy to use. No training required. No big changes in work behavior. No disruption to people's daily work or workflow. That principle is hard at work in the consumerization behavior of your employees: They adopt the simplest, cheapest, best tool for the job. So watch what they are doing and adapt it or adapt to it (by knowing their behavior, naturally).

So what Thaler has described for government policy makers and implementers is directly applicable to you technology decision makers and implementers. When implementing any workforce technology, you are squarely in the realm of behavioral science, where evidence as described by Thaler can help you make better decisions and implement things that will take.

We have written a bunch of reports for Forrester customers (paid content) on workforce technology assessment behavioral science, including:

How about you? Are you harnessing the power of behavioral science to make smart workforce policy technology decisions?