Employee Tracking and Monitoring

Info Tech Research Group's Info Tech Advisor newsletter runs a good article about tracking employees with GPS and RFID technology. It talks about why an employer might want to do that, and morale and privacy issues. As it is a paid subscription newsletter, I have reproduced it here (with permission of course).

Take a look at the Info Tech Web site

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Employee Tracking

Global Positioning System (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking technology offer employers unprecedented ability to monitor employee behavior, which can result in increased efficiency and productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and greater corporate security. But it can also lead to plummeting staff morale, employee backlash, and potential lawsuits. Weigh the pros and cons of employee monitoring before investing.

Tracking Devices Are On the Rise

It's not uncommon for enterprises to monitor employee e-mail and Internet usage, and security cameras are commonplace. As employers increasingly turn to GPS technology and RFID badges to keep track of their mobile workers, employees are starting to resent the "Big Brother" effect of these technologies.

Employee-tracking devices are gaining in popularity due, in part, to cheaper cell phone GPS technology and the U.S. e911 mandates requiring wireless companies to develop ways for emergency workers to find the location of 911 callers using a cell phone.

In fact, Info-Tech estimates that the GPS handset market will reach over $21 billion in sales by 2010, three times higher than 2000 levels of roughly $7 billion.

Applications for GPS-Enabled Cell Phones

Enterprises are requiring their mobile staff to carry GPS-enabled cell phones for a variety of purposes:

Time sheets. Submission of automated time sheets for field staff based on tracked movement to specific locations. Time sheets based on GPS movements are more accurate and efficient than paper-based sheets that rely on fuzzy memories and the honor system.

Logistics. Re-routing delivery and service vehicles for increased efficiency and higher customer satisfaction.

Fleet management. Cell phone- and vehicle-based GPS allows for the tracking of missing fleet vehicles. Employers and car rental companies can also track the driving speed of fleet vehicles.

Emergency work. Police and ambulance vehicles can be equipped with GPS to help in locating and re-routing emergency workers, and provide roadside assistance. GPS tracking can also be used to locate downed officers who do not respond to the dispatcher.

Security. GPS tracking and RFID badges can be used to keep unauthorized personnel out of secure areas within a building or compound.

Mobile workers, such as police officers, snowplow drivers, garbage collectors, military personnel, moving company employees, field sales staff, ambulance drivers, and delivery staff are ideal candidates for GPS-enabled cell phones.

Employee Backlash With some recent high profile incidents of employers using GPS tracking software to make a case for terminating an employee, a number of unions have threatened to sue their employers if GPS data collected is used to penalize employees. Recently, 500 Chicago city workers won union concessions that employees would carry GPS phones only if they were allowed to turn the geo-tracking feature off during lunch and after hours.

With very little legal recourse for non-unionized workers, Info-Tech expects employee tracking to increase in popularity.

GPS Decision Guide Follow these guidelines to determine if employee tracking makes sense for your enterprise:

1. Determine the need. Establish a defined need for the technology. How will it increase efficiency, enhance security, or improve customer satisfaction? If a solid business case cannot be made for the technology, and if a positive return on investment cannot be proven, then this technology should not be pursued.

2. Establish a privacy policy. Create a policy that indicates that only those elements of employee behavior that have a substantial effect on profitability will be monitored. Summarize what is and is not being tracked, and that the devices will be inactive during off-hours. Outline how the data that is collected will be used. Use Info-Tech's "GPS Cell Phone Policy" as a template to create your own policy.

3. Monitor morale. Enterprises that want to use GPS and RFID technology need to closely monitor morale to ensure that the intrusive technology does not lead to an unproductive or hostile work environment.

4. Gain consent. Allow employees access to the data that is collected on them. This will help employees to understand how the data is being used, and how it is helping them get their jobs done. Encourage feedback on how processes could be improved, and generally make employees feel in control of the technology.

Avoid temptation. While it is tempting to monitor underperformers or probable slackers, the technology must be implemented uniformly across all employees in the same position, and used for the purposes outlined in the policy. Using GPS data for undefined purposes could land the enterprise in murky legal territory.

Bottom Line Employee tracking through GPS cell phones and RFID badges can be an effective way to increase productivity and improve security, but it must be implemented with the right intentions in mind. Info-Tech expects employee tracking to increase over the next two years as the technology becomes available.

Want to Know More?

"Big boss is watching," from CNET News.com. "Can't Hide Your Prying Eyes," from Computerworld. "GPS Units Keep Tabs On Employee Loafing," from CareerJournal.

More @ Info-Tech Advisor

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