Eight out of ten managers collect employee data

The majority of the Danish workplaces collect data about their employees with digital tools, even if this risks damaging trust, new survey finds.

Although a majority of managers in Danish workplaces see a risk that the collection and use of employee data damages trust and the relationship with the employees, 8 out of 10 managers state that they collect a large amount of data about their employees.

This is done with the help of digital management tools, which, among other things, record when employees arrive and leave, time spent on tasks, meeting activity, performance, keystrokes, physical health status and break activity. Still, only every third workplace has formulated a clear policy for data collection and what data may be used for.

This is the result of a new large study among 600 managers, which was prepared by the think tank Mandag Morgen for IDA, DM, the ADD project, Dansk Erhverv, DI, Djøf, FH, Finansforbundet and Forsikringsforbundet.

Common solutions

Camilla Gregersen, who is chairperson of the academic trade union DM, hopes that the investigation can help draw attention to a problem to which we must find common solutions - before the development runs rampant. She points out that only five percent of managers believe that better guidelines for collecting employee data are needed to a very high or high degree. Only 38 percent of managers completely agree that they have the right skills and knowledge to talk to their employees about the use of employee data.

"Technological development offers unprecedented opportunities for collecting employee data. It is therefore crucial that employers have the necessary knowledge and skills so that employees' basic rights are not violated. In addition, it is important that the employees are involved, so the collection does not risk harming well-being and job satisfaction", she says.

Transparent data collection

According to the survey, 56 percent of managers state that the purpose of using digital tools is to increase well-being, while 46 percent also use data to strengthen the bottom line by increasing employee productivity and performance.

But the increasing amount of employee data, which is collected through log files and programs, has the potential to distort the balance of power between employers and employees, believes Malene Matthison-Hansen, who is chairman of IDA’s Council of Employees.

"As employees, we have to be critical of the kind of data-driven management and monitoring, which in some cases can lead to insecurity and stress. It is extremely important that employers are transparent about the purpose of the data collection and what data is collected. Otherwise, it risks damaging the relationship between managers and employees", she says.

Selected results from the survey

  • 79% of managers indicate that they use employee data collected by digital tools in their management practices.
  • 52% of managers fully or partially agree that they see a risk that the use of digital tools for collecting employee data will damage their relationship with their employees.
  • 69% of managers respond that they have spoken to employees about the workplace using digital tools to collect data about them. But only 25% of employees say their manager has talked to them about why they collect data.
  • Every fifth employee has been required by the employer to install an app on their private phone, which can, for example, record communication, time spent on tasks, and their location.
  • 16 percent of managers use data on employees' physical health, which 57% of employees are critical of.