Junk-Mail Firm Straps GPS Devices To People Handing Out Pamphlets

from the how-low-can-you-go? dept

Down in Australia, a firm that hires teens to deliver junk-mail pamphlets to houses has decided to make their processes a bit more efficient by forcing the kids to wear a GPS device that records all their moves -- making sure they visit the houses they were assigned and do so in the order prescribed by the company. Some of the kids aren't particularly happy about being spied on this way, and apparently the company expected that. With the information pack about the GPS devices, they included a simple resignation form for those who weren't happy about the idea. Again, it seems like this is a modern attempt to bring back Taylorism, the idea that all workplace activities can be scientifically monitored and made more efficient -- as if people were machines. There's nothing wrong with working on ways to make employees more productive, but it needs to occur with the recognition that they're human beings and constantly spying on them and making them feel inadequate tends to hurt productivity more than it helps. It certainly doesn't make for particularly loyal employees. Perhaps that's fine for a business such as a junk-mail pamphleteer, but there is still a cost involved in hiring and training new people, while being able to fill in for those who quit. It's one of those things that sounds good to management (oooh, efficiency! productivity!) but whose consequences aren't carefully thought out. Of course, the firm responds to such charges by including the standard line that no one who is actually a good worker should be upset about being tracked, since it's only designed to spot the bad workers.

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  1. identicon
    GPS Developer, 31 Oct 2006 @ 4:51am

    Unfair Judgement / Overzealous Reporting

    I develop professional GPS tracking systems for a living. I have almost a decades industry experience.

    You said: "they're human beings and constantly spying on them and making them feel inadequate tends to hurt productivity more than it helps"

    Firstly I would like to point out that someone reporting for somewhere like here SHOULD NOT mix up 'tracking' with 'spying'. Spying is observation, and suggests direct observation. This is FAR from the case with a GPS tracking system.

    In case you hadn't noticed, GPS is ONLY a time signature. It's not visual information. Logistics projects in the modern day often require employee tracking. This is because of the culture of these employees and for protection against those employees actions. Here's two examples:

    1. Employee is a young kid, Kid dumps the leaflets in the hedge and goes home for the rest of the day. There is NO GOOD REASON to pay or continue to employ this person. Furthermore, the only other way to solve this issue is to spy on them with a human on the ground! (Which anyone would agree is far worse.)

    2. Employee delivers all mail on one day to a particular house with the motivation of a personal dispute. A complaint is launched, and the company needs to verify the reality of this complaint. (similarly, client's have suffered this issue with car crash damage claims, and in several cases, the claims were NOT valid at all, and the vehicles claimed against were hundreds of miles away).

    Just because you don't know an industry and you've read a book written in by Orwell does NOT mean that gps tracking is in ANY way equivalent to big brother. You're sensationalist and generalist reporting style does significant damage to my industry because you CHOOSE to be flamboyant. Frankly you're more damaging than any of the above.

    With regard to employee handling, many of our clients are advised to leave their employees to their 'daily working life' and 'daily tendencies' and to only approach them for issues which may genuinely affect the company. Many of our clients are very successfull at this. They allow their employees to get away with increased 'freedom' provided paid work is completed. At the same time, logistics firms with large vehicles must try to ensure that these vehicles are not travelling dangerously during these times, for example using a 10T lorry to pickup groceries, and driving at the national speed limit + 20% in order to manage that during lunch hour. The same employer allows other staffs to use smaller company vehicles where appropriate to perform these personal chores.

    If you work for a company that treats you like crap, that's exactly what you should expect. That's got nothing to do however, with tracking systems they use, it's the people who run the business.

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