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Hot topic: Employee monitoring

Barclays and the Daily Telegraph have both faced criticism for installing employee monitoring devices

Meanwhile staff at tech company Three Square Market can choose to have a chip injected into their hand. But how ethical is employee tracking technology? What are the risks and how can HR protect staff?

Simon Webley, research director at the Institute of Business Ethics, says:

"One of the essential matters to address if an organisation wishes to maintain an open culture is the protection and use of data – both personal and commercial.

"Chip technology poses particular challenges, not least to boards. So HR needs to be involved from the outset. There are two key words that should form the basis of a policy: permission and privacy.

"If chip technology is to be used to promote a more effective organisation, then each employee needs to give their personal permission and be provided with a clear explanation of how the data gleaned from the chip is to be used. This should be put in writing and regularly reviewed. At the same time, an assurance needs to be given that their privacy will always be maintained."

Norman Pickavance, co-founder of the Centre for Organisational Renewal, says:

"There are several pressing concerns about spyware. For example, it doesn’t work particularly in a ‘high touch’ customer environment such as retail.

"Genuine customer service is all about building relationships with shoppers. Foundations for such relationships are ultimately based on trust. Yet introducing spyware sends a signal to all staff that they ultimately cannot be trusted to do a good job. Such approaches undermine the authority of managers who are no longer sure that their judgement on their team members is valued.

"All the research points to better customer service coming when people feel confident in themselves, feel confident that they can talk to shoppers, and feel proud of the work they do. When you take that autonomy away people stop giving all of themselves; stepping back and only doing the bare minimum. At the end of the day spying on people becomes self-defeating."

Check back tomorrow for part two of this Hot Topic