HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Understanding Surveillance in the Modern-Day Workplace

According to a recent Data & Society Research Institute study, surveillance inside the modern-day workplace is changing and evolving alongside the development of newer technologies and their ever-expanding capabilities.surveillance
Employers are beginning to use surveillance tools to track and predict their employees’ performance, as well as to seek ways to improve employee productivity and overall organizational profitability. But such surveillance and monitoring tools can also be intrusive and detrimental if they’re not used and implemented properly. Keep reading to learn more.

Newer Tools and Techniques for Modern-Day Workplace Surveillance

Data collected about workers and what they do daily can be tracked and fed into automated systems. And those automated systems will tell organizational leadership teams things like what tasks employees complete, their performance levels on those tasks, and their overall skills and qualities. These systems will predict whether employee performance, behavioral patterns, and overall health will lead to future employability, a promotion, or even inevitable termination or resignation.
With today’s technology, employers can easily monitor and analyze employees’ phone calls, voice mails, mobile device activity, Internet activity, work activity, etc., via prediction and flagging tools and time-tracking tools.
Employers can also use systems like facial recognition tools and speech analysis tools to uncover data about an employee’s soft skills.  They can scan an employee’s social media posts to uncover patterns in behavior.
They can also analyze biometric data and health trackers to determine whether an employee’s health will lead to inadequate job performance in the future … and, so on.

What You Need to Know About Modern-Day Workplace Surveillance

Workplace surveillance does have some limitations according to federal and state laws, especially limitations regarding personal privacy and telephone calls, voice mails, e-mails, and text communications, as well as how Internet use, employee location tracking, and video surveillance can and should be monitored and implemented.
It’s also important to note the four key issues outlined in the Data & Society Research Institute study. While employee surveillance and monitoring tools inside the modern-day workplace can help employers hire high-quality employees and better manage their teams and workloads, such tools can also do the following when not implemented correctly:

  1. Provide employers an “information advantage” that can lead to exploitation or unfair treatment of employees.
  2. Perpetuate biases, workplace discrimination, and inaccurate or poor hiring and management practices.
  3. Unfairly shift how work is valued and compensated, leading to wage theft or improper classification of work completed as well as the employees completing that work.
  4. Place harmful and detrimental pressure on employees to perform at unrealistic levels while impacting their sense of autonomy and discretion in the workplace, leading to less productive and more punitive work environments.

Overall, surveillance and monitoring tools and techniques in the modern-day workplace can benefit employers immensely. But this will happen only if those employers implement them legally, while keeping the four key issues highlighted above in mind.