Data is becoming a holy tenet of HR, but there is such a thing as too much data, especially when you can’t explain how you’ll use it or guarantee it will be used fairly.
Key Stroke Tracking
It is possible to track an employee’s key strokes and figure out what they’re doing with their day, but the amount of information HR ends up with is like more than it can feasibly use.
“The employer or the government collects so much information and in the normal course they are never going to look at the information until they think they have a reason,” employment lawyer Karen Bock told HRM
. “The issue becomes are they looking fairly? Is the reason justifiable?”
In one situation an employer found an employee had been streaming a sports site for his entire work day. They approached Bock about how to handle the situation, but she suggested they go back and see if they could track his productivity. If the employee in question had more than one window open it was feasible that he had only checked the game a few times throughout the day, while still meeting his work goals.
In this particular case they found he had been making calls, filling out reports and generally meeting his requirements – and had checked the score just four times throughout the day.
HR lesson: make sure you have all the information before jumping to conclusions.
Computer use monitoring
One thing for employers to monitor is use of bandwidth and downloads. This is partly wise because it can be an indication of an IT issue such as malware or a malfunctioning program, but it can also catch out those who are misusing office computers. Streaming a lot of video, or downloading large files can increase up an employee’s bandwidth use. By tracking these numbers, HR has a justifiable reason to investigate computer use.
Even when an employer can prove misconduct, labour boards may not uphold specific decisions. In 2012 the Department of Citizenship and Immigration had to reinstate employee Franklin Andrews, despite showing that he spent up to three-quarters of his work time looking at pornography. The arbitrator said the organization failed to show that he was not meeting job expectations. If the department had a computer use policy they could potentially have enforced the decision based on the level of his misconduct.
“When you have all this technology
that allows you to surveill you have to be careful,” Bock said. “Employers need a really policy in place that says employees have no expectation of privacy.”
It’s also important to make your policy enforceable. If you say no one can use any work computer for private matters but let most people get away with checking emails or Facebook
your organization will struggle to use the policy to discipline or terminate an employee whose computer use is unreasonable. Instead, make sure you define what exactly is unreasonable – such as failing to meet specific job requirements.
“It’s amazing how often an employer will put together policy and put it on a shelf and never roll it out,” Bock told HRM. “If you don’t have a policy and you want to start one, let people know. Explain why, roll it out, train on it and then have it go into effect a little in the future so it takes effect after training and education.”