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The new HR buzz is 'Labor Cost Management'


GPS has made it possible for employers to monitor and control employee behavior at their desks in the OR, on the warehouse floor and in an employee's personal vehicle. Companies are routinely reading employee personal email, monitoring social media usage and even secretly installing GPS devices on employee's personal vehicles, if used on the job.


While it enhances productivity, it is producing several serious, unwanted effects on the workforce. Everything from simply increasing moment-to-moment stress to contributing to an almost Orwellian 'Big Brother is watching' mentality, is playing out in companies and stores and warehouses all over the US.


United Grocers has increased sales 36% while cutting payroll 25% by utlizing GPS and headset communications to push forklift operators to operate more efficiently and to push them faster and faster. Employees are cracking under the pressure. Job satisfaction is stifled. Workers are paranoid. Bathroom breaks are monitored. At what price efficiency?


While it makes sense to look at eliminating inefficiencies in the supply chain, the employees in many roles are treated like human robots and the dehumanizing effect is too new to be judged. However, each innovation in efficiency brings new problems to bear. No doubt, if stress-related illnesses, more absences and employee turnover increases, tweaks will have to be made to balance the efficiencies achieved with a more humanizing approach to reaching them.

The unsettling element to this article is the privacy breach issue. The piece in the article of the man going to court to see if hiding a GPS unit on his personal vehicle was a breach of his freedom, the court ruled it WAS LEGAL for the company to secretly monitor the employee's whereabouts 24/7. Even though the legal system protects a suspected criminal from secret surveillance, it protects corporations spying on their employees. Hmmm, interesting. But, legal?


Obviously, these issues are brand new, as new procedures arise to increase efficiencies and to optimize the use of technology to better control labor costs. But, at what cost?


©2013, Gary Eastwood