Percolata, a Silicon Valley company that counts Uniqlo and 7-Eleven among its clients, uses in-store sensors to calculate a “true productivity” score for each worker, and rank workers from most to least productive. – A Machine May Not Take Your Job, but One Could Become Your Boss
Employee surveillance is all the rage in 2019. Advancements in facial recognition technology, wearables and sensor data, data analysis and machine learning, have created a rich product landscape that makes it easy for your employers to track you at work and outside of it.
The market for Employee (Automated) Monitoring Solutions is around $1.1 billion but analysts expect it to grow to about $3 billion by 2023. That’s a whole lot of worker spying headed our way.
Amazon is the most enthusiastic and well-known employer to embrace employee surveillance technology. They routinely subject their warehouse employees to a brutal work environment in which everyone is tracked, measured, and pushed to meet ever-increasing metrics. The mindset seems to be that any moment spent not producing – whether its going to the bathroom, saying hello to a coworker, or taking a moment to think – is money stolen from the company. The result is a hellish place, in which workers suffer from depression and injuries, creating a corporate culture of distrust.
Employee surveillance tech is hot hot hot
If you don’t work in an Amazon warehouse it’s easy to think that surveillance technology is a world a way from your workplace. But you’d be wrong. Gig economy workers are already managed by algorithm, with plenty of tracking and nudges to get workers to obey the algorithm and keep working.
In fact, companies use of employee surveillance technology is only growing:
Last year, the research firm Gartner found that more than 50% of the 239 large corporations it surveyed are using “nontraditional” monitoring techniques, including scrutinizing who is meeting with whom; analyzing the text of emails and social-media messages; scouring automated telephone transcripts; gleaning genetic data; and taking other such steps. That’s up from just 30% in 2015. And Gartner expects those ranks to reach 80% by next year. – Workplace tracking is growing fast.
Employee surveillance technology is going to make your worst manager even worse. Employers are collecting increasing amounts of data about you, both at work and outside of work. The data is fed into algorithms designed to categorize and analyze you. The result is delivered on a dashboard, accessible by your boss and leadership. The data your produce, and the decisions made based on that data, are rarely shared with with you, the employee. Sometimes your data is shared with third party companies.
Choose a company that trusts their employees and respects your private data
Now that employers are highly invested in monitoring their employees habits it’s important to know just what kind of culture you’re headed into as you search for new employment. It’s unlikely employers will play up their use of employee surveillance tech on the about page (algorithms aren’t so photogenic after all). Ensure you don’t end up working for a company culture that breeds distrust or puts your personal data into the hands of a bad manager or third parties by asking the right questions.
We all know that asking questions as the end of the interview is a smart move. It makes you look informed and engaged. Use this time to ask the hard questions about employee monitoring.
Employee surveillance interview questions
Here are the top interview questions to guide you in your search for a company that both trusts their employees and cares about your data privacy.
Will my productivity be measured by an algorithm? If so, what metrics will I need to meet to ensure I am rated successful by the algorithm?
Are sensors used to track the physical location of employees? If so, what type of data is collected?
Will I receive performance feedback from my manager or an algorithm?
Are terminations determined by a human or an algorithm? Are promotions determined by a human or algorithm?
Will my emails be reviewed by algorithm and scored based on sentiment? Who will have access to those scores?
Does your company have cameras in the workplace? Will my manager have access to these feeds?
Is facial recognition used in the workplace? If not, are any other biometrics collected in the workplace?
Does this company collect data on my habits outside the workplace (fitness levels, eating and sleep habits, etc). If so, who will have access to this data?
Is health and fitness data used to inform promotions?
Are the company’s wellness programs opt in or opt out? Will I be financially penalized for opting out?
What is the company’s position on employee monitoring?
The future of work is not set in stone. We don’t have to trade our personal data and privacy for a job. Asking questions about data privacy and surveillance monitoring helps us push back on invasive tech and data privacy violations in the workplace. You deserve to work in a place where you aren’t monitored continuously. Find those companies and champion them.
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