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Do You Track, or Do You Trust? Finding the balance

Employers today have choices that their predecessors did not. In the past, employers relied on a timecard and on their employees’ truthfulness when working offsite. (And, this wasn’t that long ago. Most of us, even Gen Y, have punched a timecard at one job or another.) Now, there are new tracking options for employees from mandatory intranets with built-in time clocks to apps that track location and activity. And, as is always the case, some employees are responding by gaming the system. How do you find balance?

Applicant and employee privacy

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As more and more tracking applications and data points become available to employers, employees are increasingly pushing back to protect their privacy, and these battles are being played out in the courtroom. In recent news, the requirements for credit reporting agencies and what they can and can’t report are getting stricter. Legislatures, especially those of NYC, are protecting personal privacy and encouraging employers to look more closely at all applicants with Ban the Box and no credit check policies. Additionally, the FCRA, now under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is examining employers more carefully, ensuring that they are following background check and adverse action policies precisely to protect applicants.

Personal privacy is being held up in employment situations, and this may soon extend to social networks. But, these policies are coming under scrutiny a decade after many employers have been using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to screen applicants informally.

The reality is that many companies move faster than the legislature, and as more and more data points and tracking tools become available, employers will leverage them to forward their business goals.

GPS goes to court

One hotly debated data point is GPS. How can and should employers use the GPS tracker on their employees’ phones? [Tweet “How can and should employers use the GPS tracker on their employees’ phones?”]

In California, a woman is suing her employer for firing her after she deleted an app from her phone that tracked her whereabouts. Her boss even “bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments.” But, the use of a tracking app is not all that exceptional—the woman was aware that this was a requirement of employment and had no issues with it during business hours. The problem was the after-hours tracking. Last year, a bill was proposed to require employers to inform employees how they were being tracked. However, the bill would not set any parameters on said tracking.

The availability of a tracking app, coupled with an increasing acceptance of a 24/7 workday, especially for knowledge workers, creates a complex issue that employers and employees must solve. Some employees, namely consultants and high level knowledge workers, are finding a way around this issue.

The blending of billable and personal

For years, it has been accepted that to get to the top, 80 to 90 hour work weeks are a must. Instant availability is required, and when a client calls, the consultant answers. When the requirement is an answered phone or an immediate response to an email (both of which can be done from anywhere), the blending of personal and professional time tends to come more easily. According to a recent New York Times article, more professionals are “faking it” and working around the strenuous requirements. One consultant for the Big Four said he recently prepped for a meeting in the line at Disneyland and took a call as his family rode the Tower of Terror. Not in-office time, but definitely billable.

Where do you stand?

The NY Times piece makes a great point: “Maybe the real problem isn’t men faking greater devotion to their jobs. Maybe it’s that too many companies reward the wrong things, favoring the illusion of extraordinary effort over actual productivity.”

While more information does equal better decisions, you have to be looking at the right data points. With so much information available nowadays, we have the opportunity to choose what we know and how we use it. As each company moves forward, it has to decide its stance: privacy or disclosure? Tracking or trust? Where will you stand?

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