Ann Bartel, professor of human resource management at Columbia Business School, recently chatted with CIO Insightabout the bumps in the road to creating a real-time work force.
CIO Insight: Some say that the push by businesses to real time could lead to job losses and also to increased labor-management difficulties, due to increased electronic monitoring.
This new approach to monitoring will make it easier for management to document substandard performance, and then make it easier for managers to make the case for discharging and laying off people for not living up to performance standards. Any increase in monitoring also will increase concerns among labor.
Given today’s labor market, though, the unions are so weak that unionized workers probably won’t be able to do much about monitoring. Technology has its advantages, certainly, but will it affect the quality of workers’ lives to have Big Brother watching over you? It will certainly change the way workers are used to working.
Is this likely to affect all types of workers, or just certain classes of them?
It will have to be the type of job where you will, in fact, be able to monitor tasks, so clearly, factory workers will be affected. So will customer service reps and telemarketers. In the telecom industry, they’ve been monitoring with technology for quite some time, and managers have been monitoring how customer service reps handle service calls, such as how long they take per call, or whether they spend too much time talking to customers who don’t intend to place an order.
This has become a major labor issue at places like Verizon and MCI. Monitoring is clearly going to affect the quality of a person’s work experience. It’s going to be hard to know that you have someone basically looking over your shoulder, someone who is able to track what you’re doing every minute of the day. I think, certainly, that this would make it more unpleasant for workers. It will certainly make them feel their autonomy is being limited and that their privacy is being invaded.