Guest Blog: Stephen Schroeder, Turtler

09 Feb 2018 | 04.55 pm

Guest Blog: Stephen Schroeder, Turtler

The evolution of employee tracking

09 Feb 2018 | 04.55 pm

Stephen Schroeder is CEO of Turtler, a new company that has developed a GPS tracking device and smart device applications. With a focus on personal data privacy protection, Turtler is based in Dublin 4 and will shortly launch a beta version of its GPS device

While today’s businesses have more technology than ever at their disposal to monitor employees’ productivity, the concept itself is nothing new.

Workers have always been supervised in one way or another. In Ancient Egypt, slaves’ labour was overseen with a brutal rigidity, and those falling behind in their backbreaking work were regularly beaten as punishment, killed, or simply left to die.

Adults and children toiling in Victorian workhouses were monitored without discretion, with a severe emphasis on work above any form of reprieve or compassion. Families placed in workhouses together would be separated and punished if they tried to communicate with each other, while anyone letting their productivity slip would be beaten.

Things changed over time, with physical punishments and such rampant barbarity giving way to more civilised forms of monitoring employees. However, various tactics companies employed were still ethically dubious, to say the least.

The Ethics of Employee Monitoring

Henry Ford, known for his revolutionary work in the automobile industry, would haunt his factory floor with a stopwatch in hand. He was known to time his employees’ movements and motions, striving to avoid a single wasted second. By the mid-1910s, Ford’s vehicles had achieved monumental success, with tens of thousands of workers manufacturing his lucrative cars.

As a result, Ford provided employees with a generous pay rise, but they had to meet certain criteria to receive their extra money: they were expected to keep their homes neat, their children in good health, and to be married (if they were younger than 22). Ford was focused on ensuring that his staff were living as ideal American citizens, and took employee monitoring to a shocking level.

He established a team of 50 investigative professionals, which eventually grew to 200, to look into his workers’ personal lives. They would arrive at employees’ homes without warning to assess cleanliness, and interview workers about their drinking habits, their spending activities, and their relationships. They would check up on employees’ children too, ensuring they were in school as they should have been.

Ford’s employee tracking was incredibly intrusive and highly unethical, far more so than modern forms of monitoring – in practice, if not in theory.

Irish companies today have multiple forms of employee tracking to choose from. Businesses across all sectors can utilise numerous techniques to oversee workers’ computer activity, in-office behaviour, vehicle usage, and overall productivity.

Employee GPS tracking is one of the most common and reliable methods available, and can be integrated into everyday operations with ease.

For example, GPS tracking in company vehicles is popular, particularly in haulage firms and brands based around nationwide deliveries. Having a fleet of trucks out on the roads is a hugely expensive, complicated undertaking – and time is money.

Businesses can depend on GPS devices designed to not only aid drivers’ navigational skills, but to monitor their productivity too. Companies are able to connect to these GPS tracking units to assess a driver’s chosen route, their fuel consumption and more.

Any drivers who affect productivity and finances by taking unnecessarily long routes, charging for more fuel than they use, leaving their engine to idle for too long, or using company vehicles for personal usage can all be caught out through GPS tracking.

Supervising Staff to Boost Productivity

This surveillance technology can be used in different ways, beyond trucks and cars, for monitoring individuals’ activities. Any of the countless businesses in Ireland might use an app with GPS tracking on a company smartphone, and ask workers to carry one throughout the day, enabling the brand to analyse employees’ activity patterns during paid hours.

For instance, a company that believes one or more workers is passing sensitive information on to a competitor can use GPS tracking on an app to identify when said employees are behaving strangely. Perhaps they leave the premises without permission, loiter in a storage cupboard for an unusually long time, or keep going outside to make calls. Any or all of these could be connected with leaking company details.

While catching the employee in the act would be conclusive, the mere danger of being discovered could be enough to prevent workers indulging in any behaviour which may risk their job.

The same applies to productivity and performance – knowing that they are being monitored at all times with GPS can inspire workers to work harder. Anyone who tends to leave their desk without good reason on countless occasions each day might find themselves spending less time wandering, and more time earning their money.

Irish companies must tread carefully with GPS tracking, though. Such devices cannot be used to monitor employees outside of working hours; businesses expecting staff to download GPS-related apps on their personal smartphones can infringe on workers’ privacy if they conduct surveillance on staff in their downtime. Not only can this affect staff morale, it can cause them to question their loyalty, possibly even resigning.

While employee tracking has with time become less intrusive and (frankly) cruel, it still remains a sensitive topic. Businesses are within their rights to monitor their workers during operating hours, but they must have good reason and respect employees’ privacy.

Turtler GPS LTD
23 Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, Ireland
Tel: 01 699 4405

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