Skye sits at her workstation to complete a project. The workstation happens to be near the work lounge. She wears an identification badge that allows management to know her location at all times. Because of a malfunction in the location-monitoring system, management perceives her to be in the lounge for an hour while a deadline for her project nears. She is reprimanded for loafing.
Skye is a victim of an unreliable tracking system enhanced by incompetent human-resource practices.
Electronic sensors are becoming more popular as their uses expand. Information about employee locations, heart rates, security breaches, bacteria, number of steps taken and drug use can be collected via the Internet or Intranet. The data allows manufacturing, service and human-resource managers to evaluate their people and the equipment they use.
Electronic sensors using the Global Positioning System, radio-frequency identification, motion detectors, voice sensors and ion-channel switches in the body can fail to accurately allow managers to make the right decisions about employee productivity.
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For example, lightning might strike the power grid, and the electricity needed to run sensors might discontinue. Some sensors might fail due to irregular maintenance. Sensors might automatically shut off if they receive direct sunlight. The design, manufacture and age of sensors might lead to system failure. Sensors may become out of date as new software from the manufacturer appears.
Sensors might not be designed to measure all movements of an employee from Point A to Point B. The time that the employee arrives at the checkpoints might be correctly recorded, but how the employee got there might be a mystery. On the way from Point A to Point B, the employee might have been committing a crime or taking inappropriate shortcuts. The sensors might be reliable, but management might inconsistently assess what happens between Point A and Point B.
One of the ultimate sources of unreliability is management commitment to ensure that all sensors are in good working order and that the interpretation of their data is fair. If there is a dispute and an employee challenges information coming from a sensor, a thorough evaluation of the sensor and the circumstances surrounding it must be made.