Software detects conflict faster than humans - Business Report feature


Original Source: https://www.persfin.co.za/business-report/companies/in-the-workplace-software-is-detecting-conflict-faster-than-humans-bda893c8-3cdc-44dc-8f78-755aa595b22d

In a world where most of our decision making is based on data insights, business leaders are missing out by not applying the science to team management. Big data analytics software with configurable algorithms allows managers and team leaders to analyse vast amounts of data, providing valuable insights into potential issues within teams – often up to five times faster. This allows for prompt intervention to ensure quality, productivity, and profitability are maintained.

A tougher economy and the rising cost of living is taking an inevitable toll on all of us. Distracted and stressed management and workers means that while flare ups are more frequent, it takes even longer for managers to identify problems within their teams. This unchecked conflict impacts the entire team and, if not addressed, will lead to a toxic environment that impacts performance and quality and could ultimately cost companies clients, reputation, and in extreme instances, the business itself.

Traditional performance reviews don’t always uncover the issues

Many companies still work solely on an individual performance model, relying on formal reviews conducted quarterly.

A business could spend up to a week every three months conducting performance reviews. This equates to a month of the year away from actual delivery. What’s more, the reviews don’t allow proper objectivity and people simply don’t remember what happened one or two months ago. The result is that simmering issues are never properly unearthed and go unaddressed.

One of the major impacts of unidentified conflicts lies in what he describes as the contagion effect.

The impact of a conflict never remains confined to the two people involved, but spills over, impacting the entire team and upsetting the working dynamic. Years of analysis of data from our own and other workplaces has shown that in an average workplace it takes between six to eight weeks before problems are identified by management. Even with rapid resolution the damage done has a lasting impact and it can take at least another three to four weeks before team performance returns to normal. That is three months of suboptimal working conditions that will have a profound effect on quality and output.

This is in stark contrast to when a new data-driven approach developed by TeamFirst is taken.

This cloud-based solution utilises customised algorithms, which have been tested and refined over six years, along with big data analytics to analyse high-frequency, anonymous peer reviews and anonymous data from teams. The volunteered information about their experiences, relationships and outputs is then analysed by the software, uncovering potential conflict areas before they can impact on team performance.

When a problem is detected by the software, usually in just a week or two, quick interventions can happen while the issue is still manageable and hasn’t had time to escalate into something more problematic. More particularly, the conflict doesn’t have time to poison the rest of the team and with a swift resolution there is barely any impact felt.

Emphasis on company values offers additional benefits

Another key benefit of adopting a data-driven approach is that the parameters of the software can be configured around each company’s culture and values.

Company values don’t just help teams deliver according to an agreed quality standard, but can help develop an increased self-awareness in how teams treat one another. By consistently rating each other based on these values, the company culture is placed at the heart of operations and becomes the basis on which decisions are made. Clear values that are seen in action everyday have a big impact on team performance as well as individual employee satisfaction, both of which will inevitably impact profitability.

Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workplace report found that today’s workers are experiencing worryingly high rates of disengagement and dissatisfaction, with 60% of those surveyed admitting they were emotionally detached and 19% saying they were miserable. And the impact of that disengagement is having a very real impact on productivity.

The report also highlighted that employees who are actively disengaged cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, or roughly 11% of global GDP. Meanwhile, the effects of happy, engaged workers resulted in their companies reporting a 23% higher profit.

Relying on a machine to help identify something as deeply human as conflict may seem counterintuitive. But the evidence shows us that our software identifies conflict up to five times faster than humans, and the reality is that when humans eventually do pick up on the problem, it may have already caused irreparable damage. As in so many cases in business today, taking a data-driven approach is best. Because while human interaction will never go away, finding ways to augment our shortcomings can significantly improve our workplace experience.

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Conflict is costing SA companies billions and could stunt growth in 2023


In the wake of tighter budgets, and even potential layoffs, many businesses will be starting the year with restructured or entirely new teams. A big part of ensuring that they perform optimally will be identifying and de-escalating any workplace conflict. And, with the cost of workplace conflict approaching $13 billion per year in South Africa, South African decision makers should have conflict management very high on their agenda in the coming months, says a leading software development company. 

“While all business leaders are laser–focussed on how to prepare their company to ride out the uncertainties of 2023, finding ways to help your teams to work optimally can be just as important to the bottom line as managing budgets. We know that many teams have been reorganised ahead of the new year and this places management under new pressure as they navigate changed dynamics. Finding and identifying conflict points can save management time and focus and can save companies a good deal of money too,” says Martin Dippenaar, CEO of Global Kinetic.

Measuring the true costs of conflict in the workplace is not simple, but the UK public body that helps companies with conciliation and arbitration, Acas, published a report last year in which it estimates that workplace conflict costs UK employers £28.5bn every year. This amounts to an average of just over £1,000 for every employee, every year. In the US, meanwhile, the CPP Inc.( the publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument), commissioned a study that found U.S. employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict.

“It is not unreasonable to assume South African businesses suffer the same kind of disruption due to conflict, especially as we enter a downturn economy and more pressure is placed on workers at every level. With a simple extrapolation* we can see workplace conflict costing the country around $13 billion or about R223 billion, which is an astronomical amount. These costs always come as a surprise, but many people are not factoring in the many intangible costs of conflict which can add immeasurable pressure on team leaders and the business as a whole,” Dippenaar explains.

The hidden costs of conflict can be crippling

According to Dippenaar, the more obvious costs of conflict include: sick leave and absenteeism; higher staff turnover; intervention costs such as mediation and other conflict resolution; and eventually any legal costs that may be incurred.

However, he points out that there are also the less visible costs which include: a poor workplace experience; lower productivity; as well as the costs of poor customer service from a staff suffering with low morale.

Other more insidious (and possibly longer-term) effects include stress, burnout and an environment that will foment a culture of quiet quitting.   

“Generational complexities are certainly adding to the challenge for team leaders and can obviously also add to conflict. Honest and frank check-ins with your team are incredibly important, but in the daily pressure of putting delivery first, that is sometimes a luxury. This is when having the power of tech working in the background and alerting you to potential conflicts before they become major issues can really make all the difference,” Dippenaar says.

By the time you realise there is a problem it’s often too late

Based on work Global Kinetic has done, Dippenaar says that it can often take team leaders around six to eight weeks before they realise there is discord in a team.

“The difference between identifying and taking action at week two of a brewing discord and the usual week eight is significant. Early intervention can see teams back to optimal performance in as little as four weeks compared to weeks and even months of sub-optimal performance. What’s more the delays can cause irreversible damage which could end up with staff attrition and an environment of broken trust,” says Dippenaar.

Dippenaar explains that over and above the cost of replacing staff (which can amount to R100 000 per team member), the lost IP that leaves a company when staff leave will also have a lasting impact, especially to knowledge-based companies.

“The algorithms in our software are able to detect points of potential conflict between six weeks to two months before a human would and the early intervention offered by TeamFirst slashed our own staff turnover by 50 percent in the first year we used it. And, while there is no substitute for experienced conflict management run by trusted internal or external professionals, having software to uncover potential points of conflict before they escalate and taint the team dynamic is going to be a game changer in what is looking to be a very stressful year ahead,” Dippenaar says.

* Based on 2.8 hours of conflict a week and an average monthly salary of R25 000 with 10 million full-time and part-time employees.