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OM in the News: Advances in Technology Are Shaking Up The Workplace

October 26, 2013
Schneider National drivers are tracked to see if they are breaking too hard

Schneider National drivers are tracked to see if they are breaking too hard

Dennis Gray suspected that workers in his pest-control company were spending too much time on personal issues during the workday. So the general manager of Accurid Pest Solutions in Virginia quietly installed a piece of GPS tracking software on the company-issued smartphones of its 18 drivers. The software allowed Gray to log onto his computer to see a map displaying the location and movement of his staff. One employee, he discovered, was visiting the same address a few times a week for a few hours during the workday. At that point, Gray told the driver he was being tracked.

“Blue-collar workers have always been kept on a tight leash,” writes The Wall Street Journal (Oct.23, 2013), “but there is a new level of surveillance available to bosses these days. Thanks to mobile devices and inexpensive monitoring software, managers can now know where workers are, eavesdrop on their phone calls, tell if a truck driver is wearing his seat belt and intervene if he is tailgating”.

A 2012 report found that 37% of companies that send employees out on service calls track the real time location of workers via their hand held devices or vehicles. High tech monitoring feels like a violation of privacy to some workers, but employers say such measures improve workplace safety and productivity while also helping to reduce theft, protect secrets and investigate harassment or discrimination claims. No federal statutes restrict the use of GPS by employers, nor force them to disclose whether they are using it.

Companies that keep quiet about tracking efforts may miss out on the benefits of deterrence. A recent study of NCR’s theft-monitoring software used in 392 restaurants found a 22% reduction in server theft after the software was installed and staffers were told about it. Drink sales, meanwhile, rose 10%. Being watched, researchers found, made waitstaff work harder. This is a great example of service technology to use when teaching Chapter 7.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. What are the ethical issues involved in monitoring employees?

2. What are the OM advantages of tracking?

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