I just finished reading an article on Wall Street Journal Online called, “Want to know what your employees are up to? Just check their status.” It’s about a slew of new services to help companies keep track of their workers, essentially by tapping some of the same tools that social-networking sites use – namely status updates.
The article concedes that employee-tracking software has been around for some time, but the old systems were clunky, had to be locally installed, and the data couldn’t really be shared. Plus, workers had to enter tons of information every time they logged in to keep the system updated.
The new systems remove all those complications by operating much like the social networking sites most employees already use. Proponents of the systems say companies can benefit by being able to do things like project hiring needs by looking at how long employees stay on a project…11/22/11 Status Update: Jim S. checked in at Project: TEAM BULDER Kick Off meeting. Location: Conference Room #2 with Sally W., Bob P., Steve J., and Mike R.
[21 people LIKE this]
11/23/11 Status Update: Jim S. is enjoying a roast beef sandwich in the break room with 0 other people.
[8 people ARE AMUSED by this]
11/25/11 Status Update: Jim S has ended Project: TEAM BUILDER and is available for assignment.
[324 people LOVE this]
Others say it helps by tracking employee utilization by better understanding how their time is spent, or where they go when they say they are “going to visit a client.”2:24 PM Mike G. checked in at CORPORATE SALES OFFICE
2:35 PM Mike G. checked in a O’TOOLE’S PUB [Mike G. is the Mayer of O’toole’s Pub]
4:48 PM Mike G. checked in at CORPORATE SALES OFFICE
4:56 PM Mike G. checked in at CORPORATE HR OFFICE
5:12 PM Mike G. checked in at O’TOOLE’S PUB [Mike G. is applying for a job at O’toole’s Pub]
I’m generally for any technology that makes life easier for those managing employees, or allows HR to better assess talent needs for the organization but I’m not sure about this one. I get the efficiency angle if you’re trying to manage a fleet of delivery trucks or have service technicians in the field that need to be deployed to customer sites in real-time. But I’m not sure how most employees would take to this.
Actually, there were a handful of comments on the article when I read it… a sampling below, slightly edited for space. I think there is a theme…
“Pretty sad to see that there are still organizations that don’t effectively hire and empower employees to focus on delivering work that moves the organization toward the goal. These orgs are more interested in micromanaging their employees like a Hortator forcing every oar stroke on a slave galley ship.”
“No wonder America continues to fall behind the rest of the world.”
“But good news for me, as I find it quite easy to find extremely talented people who remain motivated without me looking over their shoulders every minute.”
“I see nothing but disaster for an employer who utilizes most of these tactics long-term. There has to be a better way to motivate your employees without having to micro-manage every aspect of their work day. The tactics demonstrated in this article are awful, and will only work with a compliant/scared/pressured work force. Employees will not only begin to resent these intrusions into their lives, but they will spend most of their time looking for ways to escape. What a terrible way to run an operation!”
“Sounds trivial if you’re using this to track employees. The updates are only as valuable as the employee decides they should be.”
“Enter job status: I QUIT”
“This is neat. Would it not be cheaper to use electric collars with GPS around the necks of these pesky people who dare inconvenience the employer with their salary demands and benefit requests ? How dare the serfs slouch on the royalty’s penny? Preposterous.”
“I think there is a time and a place for time tracking software. To micromanage employees and have managers sitting in their office with a cigar and watching the GPS locations of employees all day – NO – that’s wasting time and is quite frankly offensive.”
I, personally, actually believe that these types of social interactions such as “check-ins” and what someone is working on is the future of knowledge management. When HR organizations start to use these tools to track employees and measure productivity, we have killed another generation of trust and innovation that HR should be fostering.
What do you think? How do you think your employees would react? Let me know your thoughts by adding a comment below.
Another infusion of knowledge…