Tracking employees? Is project management technology crossing the line?

I recently came across an article about Google’s newest product called “Maps Coordinate” which is an enhanced version of its regular Google Maps product; however, it can provide employers with the real-time record of worker locations.  Google presents the product as a tool to make companies more efficient by assigning work more effectively by location.  They will charge $15/month for the use of the map.  There are even features to monitor where employees are within an office setting.  The article shares a reaction from a gaming CEO who was horrified by the application.  He stated that companies should be more concerned about production levels and outcomes, rather than how employees are producing. However, while there are privacy settings that can make a person invisible after hours, it begs the question, would a technology like this really create more efficiency in project or operations management or does this technology cross the lines of privacy and ethical boundaries with employees?

My initial reaction is shock that a company would consider tracking their employees like this. Also, it makes me wonder how much technology is needed to be efficient versus technology becoming a distraction.  Additionally, what are the legal and ethical implications of a program that crosses the lines of privacy between employees’ personal (via mobile phone) and professional lives?  It appears to be a potential human resource concern. 

Technological advances will continue, but do we necessarily need all of them?  I can see a tracking tool like this to be useful for operations like a pizza delivery service or UPS service, where knowing the location of a person or product adds value to the customer and overall operational management; however, I think the issue of privacy and respect brings up ethical concerns as well.   According to a recent case I read regarding social media and human resource recruitment, there is evidence that people need some level of privacy in order to deal with stress and to maintain a level of control in their life, psychologically speaking.  When tracking employees through their phones, regardless of whether the company pays for them or not, I think it’s a violation of privacy and lack of respect.  There is the argument that people can turn their settings to “invisible,” but given how there is an increasing pressure to available at all times in our corporate culture, I can’t imagine that being “unavailable” will be accepted culturally.

Also, when working with people from different generations, it’s important to recognize the differences in how people prefer to work.  While the millennial workforce may not be concerned with their employer using a tracking tool, a baby boomer may be very uncomfortable and even allow it to adversely affect their level of productivity.  The lesson here may be that even though technological advances are available to use, there are times where project managers may need to reconsider if the tool will make them more efficient, or potentially hinder them from achieving their goals.

NY Times, “Google Maps Where Your Workers Are”

Kelley School of Business, Indiana Universary, “You’ve Been Tagged!”, Willaim P. Smith, Deborah Kidder

5 thoughts on “Tracking employees? Is project management technology crossing the line?

  1. I think employee tracking is useful when it comes to certain types of jobs. Obviously, it is useful to have the information when it comes to delivery drivers for companies with time sensitive tasks. Companies like FedEx and UPS can use employee tracking to determine if the routes the employees use are efficient or to monitor things like mileage and fuel consumption. I do think that employee tracking just for the purpose of seeing what the employee is doing is invasive and unnecessary. I agree that people need a sense of privacy in their lives and without just cause for the tracking, it is entirely out of bounds.

  2. Although I don’t agree with the use of tracking for employees, I do believe tracking systems would make them more productive. Tracking creates the fear of getting fired in employees. A friend of mine works for the post office and she says they use tracking systems on postal trucks to make sure the employees are not out shopping while they are suppose to be working. I don’t agree with the use of tracking because I think “tracking” is overbearing like “big brother”. I think tracking should only be used in package handling, like UPS or FedEx. It shouldn’t be used to curb employee behavior.

  3. Like what Noellec said up there, I understand the objective they are trying to get at when it comes to the tracking systems. Companies want to make sure that the employees are being ethical to make sure they are where they need to be during work but it’s hard because that does come in conflict with privacy. In relation to this article, I read the other day in the Wall Street Journal that there is going to be a tracker system that is going to be sold to owners of Retail Stores to track customers through their cell phone. The purpose is to track where they go in the store, how much time they spend shopping at a certain part of the store, and even track what section of the store is the customer most likely to use their phone to see if they can find the same merchandise, that is in the store, for a cheaper price online. Therefore, they know where to put employees so they don’t lose customers. It even stated that this program can even track customers on the phone even if the customers haven’t search for the STORES WI-FI. THAT I BELIEVE IS inflicting with privacy but nowadays it’s hard to determine what line you shouldn’t cross for privacy.

  4. I would say tracking systems are needed in the workplace. Unfortunately not everyone is all they are talked up to be so to monitor employees in certain fields is almost necessary.

  5. I agree that monitoring employee where about sounds intrusive but where applicable it does make sense tracking employee movement, especially, in logistics, first responder and other highly location specific jobs.

    The smart phones we carry today have all the necessary technology to locate us with an accuracy range of less than 10 meters. Doesn’t that sound scary? But we still continue to use them. The benefits far outweigh the loss of privacy.

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