WASHINGTON – Software company Tech 2000 announced last week that it has raised $3 million to help expand distribution of a novel – and potentially intrusive – way to evaluate employees during job training.
The Northern Virginia company’s newest product, Lumious, allows managers to electronically monitor workers’ study methods across 250 performance metrics. For example, when a manager assigns a PDF computer document as part of a job-training course, Lumious embeds a few lines of code that follow the packet, sending information back to the person running the job training. The manager gets to see what pages each employee looked at, how long they linger on each page, where they studied from, what time they read the document and whether they opened it at all.
The product is being tested by two corporate customers, which the company declined to disclose.
Tech 2000 chief executive Tien Wong said his company’s product can be used to weed out slackers early in the job-training process – helping managers figure out whether the exercise is worth the investment and which workers are taking it seriously.
“We can tell [corporate customers] within a week who’s good, who’s not good, who to fire, who to remediate,” Wong said. “It’s a very powerful tool.”
Wong described one customer, a Fortune-20 technology company that operates international call centers in the Philippines and Central America, that uses the software to fire people after just a few days on the job.
“They can terminate poor performers instantly; they can see within a week whether this person has a work ethic or not,” Wong said.
Wong is also eyeing the education market, and said he is talking to three Washington-area universities about using Lumious to track students’ study habits.
A college professor could monitor whether students are doing their the assigned readings, or identify which students are blowing off the course entirely. Or an instructor could use the software to turn an analytical eye on their methods, such as testing whether doing the readings correlates with success.
But the software’s net effect on corporate or classroom culture probably depends on how it’s used.
Josh Bersin, founder of human resources consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte, said using employee-monitoring software to discipline people could be counter-productive.
“If you’re using this to weed out candidates, then it’s a bad idea,” he said. ‘That should be done long before [employees] ever get a job offer.”
Although Wong spoke bluntly about companies using the software to decide who stays and who goes, he said the real goal is to make job training more effective.
“A tool like this can give data to the instructor that would allow them to tailor education,” he said.
“That’s the Holy Grail, to teach each individual to their own strengths,” he said. “That’s the art in all of this.”