COMPANY CULTURE / AUG. 06, 2013
version 3, draft 3

Is Tagging Workers Going too Far?

Every company aims to get the most out of their staff during their working hours. Technological advances allow for workers to be monitored in inventive new ways on a continual basis. It is natural that businesses would like to optimize every workers productivity levels to the maximum degree that they can achieve boosting company profits. Monitoring productivity is an important feature in analyzing the output of your employees. But is the new trend of tagging workers going too far?  

Employees at a Tesco distribution centre warehouse in Dublin Ireland were reportedly tagged with a productivity gage worn on their wrist known as an AMT – an Arm Mounted Terminal. These devices record the employees’ activity continually during the working day. Workers complained that they were being penalized for taking a break to go to the bathroom which would directly affect their productivity level scores. Tesco for their part dispute the claims.

Nevertheless, is forcing an employee to wear a device that monitors their every movement in the workplace really going to inspire them to work harder for the company? Or could this lead to resentment; not only of those who do not have to wear the devices – but of managements apparent reluctance to trust their staff to do their jobs to their full potential.

When you hire a new member of staff, you have no doubt chosen that candidate very carefully from a talented bunch of applicants for the role. If the job requires physical strength and activity, then you hire the strongest, most enthusiastic person who you know will be capable of handling the tasks assigned to them. Is it really necessary therefore, to slap a monitor on his wrist so you have a digital analysis of his activity at all times?

Office employees have become accustomed to being monitored, with phone calls logged and computers analysed regularly for output. Factory workers have long had to clock in and out to ensure their shifts are completed. Workplaces today are often monitored by CCTV for numerous different reasons. But now, in addition to these measures, we have the introduction of a device that can physically monitor the length of time it takes staff to complete a task assigned to them. Time, an employees had until now, been capable of determining him or herself.

How will an employee feel like a valued team member, when his contributions to the company only matter when they are recorded and analysed digitally? At what point do managers need to assess themselves in this process? What exactly is the point of such digital monitors?

Once upon a time, employers used to interact with employees. Managers used to walk the floors of their factories, shops or offices, and cast an eye over their staff themselves. They were capable of determining through their own judgment and from their own carefully kept records whether an employee was working to their full potential, or when to let a five minute break slide.

As yet it is too early to determine how popular digital productivity gages will become, but if technology has taught us anything in the past - it is that technological advances in the workplace are usually embraced by those who stand to gain financially. So workers beware!

 

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