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Understanding Employee Monitoring Systems and Privacy Issues in 2019

ByAigerim Berzinya,
business.com writer
|
Aug 08, 2019
Home
> Technology
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Monitoring software can increase worker productivity but must be implemented ethically.

Employee monitoring systems empower businesses with the means to track workers at all times. This is an ideal way to measure productivity, performance, time-keeping, punctuality and other factors inherent in running a successful company.

Yet, despite the benefits that employee monitoring systems offer, there are some real dangers that have to be addressed.

Any enterprise or organization looking to leverage GPS technology to monitor their workforce must do so ethically, carefully and respectfully. In this article, we'll explore how you can do this, what employee monitoring systems are available and what privacy issues must be considered before introducing tracking into daily processes. 

What types of employee monitoring systems are available in 2019? 

Investing in employee monitoring systems is a big step for any business or organization, on any scale.

Perhaps you run a small taxi firm in a big city rife with competition. Maybe you operate a warehouse processing thousands of packages a week. Or you could even manage a courier company with staff in multiple cities across the country.

Whatever your mission, whoever your clients, your core focus is on delivering the best service, satisfying your audience and retaining their business. Employee monitoring systems facilitate this by allowing you to:

  • View workers' activities and movements in real-time, to minimize time-wasting and ensure a harmonious balance of effort across your entire team
  • Help employees on the road (such taxi drivers or couriers) find the best routes, avoid traffic jams and reach their destinations with minimal delay
  • Measure productivity and ensure that your staff operates at their maximum capacity, hits targets and generally meets expectations
  • Identify problems affecting your team's results and create a streamlined, efficient way of working

As you can see, there are very real advantages to implementing employee monitoring systems in 2019 – but actually choosing the right ones can be daunting. Here's a brief rundown of your options:

  1. Wearable tech. Badges or wristbands equipped with GPS technology enable you to track the locations and movement of your staff, with some products capable of gathering audio data. Some can also identify whether the wearer is sitting or standing (using an accelerometer).
  2. Software monitoring on computers and devices. Your business or organization may install employee monitoring software that tracks everything employees do on their computers, whether you want to capture screenshots, record videos or measure the number of keystrokes performed in a given time.
  3. Vehicular GPS tracking devices. Businesses with a fleet of cars or trucks at their disposal (again, as with taxi companies and delivery firms) can stay connected to their vehicles using cutting-edge employee GPS tracking for location sharing, recording fuel consumption, recording distance travelled, viewing routes taken, etc.

Each and every one of these options offers practical benefits suited to diverse goals. Retail brands, for instance, may find it helpful to equip the staff on their shop floors with wearable tech (wristbands or badges) to keep track of who's doing what and when through location sharing. 

This may help owners see which areas of a store are left unmanned and vulnerable to thieves throughout the day. They can also detect which employees are gathering together to chat and which are left to handle the heavy lifting by themselves. 

Haulage firms, on the other hand, may install employee GPS tracking devices in their vehicles to monitor how honest drivers are when claiming expenses for fuel. It's not out of the bounds of reality to imagine that some drivers may try to get a little extra here and there, or claim they drove further than they actually did during a given time. 

Said firms can monitor their drivers' movements with location sharing, their routes, their fuel consumption and more, helping them to stay updated on their employee activities. This reduces the risk of wasted time, unnecessary expenditure and cultivates a culture of honesty.

Editor's note: Need employee monitoring software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

 

Privacy issues you must consider with employee monitoring systems 

CNIL (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertes), France's data protection authority, issued a fine of 20,000 Euros when Uniontrad Company conducted illicit video monitoring of its employees over a number of years. 

Employees made numerous complaints to CNIL during 2013 and 2017, prompting CNIL to investigate Uniontrad Company's activities. It was discovered that the videos were recording staff activities 'continuously' – and, even worse, employees were given no information on what was actually being picked up by the cameras. 

This is just one example of how unethical practices can cause problems between businesses and their employees when implementing employee monitoring systems. It's more important than ever for companies to respect their workforce in an age when data protection and consumer rights are so prevalent. 

The GDPR, which came into effect across Europe in May 2018, equipping civilians of the EU and European Economic Area with more protection. Since then, the process of browsing websites has become a little bit different in countries affected, and people are generally more aware of their data rights. 

The same is true of employee monitoring systems. Workers may have been more susceptible to intrusive behavior on the part of their employers in the days of Henry Ford (with his team's bizarre brand of in-depth questioning), but businesses today may meet some resistance to monitoring their teams using one or more systems.

That's why it's so important to be honest, open and willing to answer your workers' questions from the moment you decide to embrace employee monitoring systems. 

An ethical approach to employee monitoring and respecting privacy

Simply installing employee GPS tracking devices in your company vehicles without telling the drivers affected is hugely unethical and likely to inspire resentment. You may even be liable for a fine. 

Equipping staff with wristbands, badges or smartphones capable of gathering data on their activities in secret can lead to the same problems. 

To avoid alienating employees, make sure the following details are fully available at all times: 

  • What data will be gathered and what it will be used for
  • How this information will be processed
  • When the monitoring system will be brought into effect
  • Where employees can find relevant details on all of the above 

Failing to disclose this information could have a serious impact on productivity, performance and staff turnover. After all, if they can get the same money doing the same job at a business which respects their privacy, why should they stay?

If you think it sounds extreme to suggest that employees may quit over monitoring, think again. According to a blog at Accenture, just over half of the people questioned for a survey claimed they would think about quitting their current role if employers failed to use workplace data and technologies in a responsible way. 

Make sure you remain completely transparent when implementing employee monitoring systems into your workplace. As Accenture's blog further reveals, BMC Software took a fair approach when launching email and calendar tracking. It offered employees the chance to opt-in and delivered tailored feedback on how they could manage their time better. They used data gathered to reduce staff becoming overworked, showing an explicit respect and concern for their employees' wellbeing.

Hitachi, too, equipped workers with wearable devices to monitor their activities and used the data effectively, leading to a rise in workplace satisfaction. 

You want your employees to be satisfied. You want them to feel valued. You want them to feel driven to succeed on a daily basis. Especially when research shows a happy workforce is more productive – up to 20% more, actually. 

Both BMC Software and Hitachi's examples show that it's possible to get employees on-board with monitoring systems if you take the right approach. Make sure your employees understand what the technology does, what benefits it offers and give them the option to decline the opportunity if they feel it's inappropriate.

Conclusion

Integrating employee monitoring systems into your business or organization's processes is clearly worth doing – but it's worth doing right. 

Keep the above points in mind when using employee monitoring systems. Define your goals from the start, respect your workers' privacy and make them fully aware of their rights. 

Always be transparent with your staff, from the moment you announce the initiative onwards. Never try to sneak wearable tech or GPS employee tracking devices into your workers' daily activities without their consent; the potential damage you could cause to your employees' trust, your reputation, and your business's future when you're discovered simply isn't worthwhile.

Aigerim Berzinya
Aigerim Berzinya
See Aigerim Berzinya's Profile
Aigerim Berzinya is the Marketing Director at Turtler GPS Ltd. and as the company's globetrotting backpacker uses the app and SHELL device while hiking abroad or in the mountains to stay connected and safe. She has a Master`s Degree in Social Sciences. Aigerim worked for QSI International School for 4 years as an Assistant to Director and a Preschool Manager for a year.
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