Employee monitoring – does the end justify the means?

Blog: Hannu Kasanen & Maarit Santtila

With the emergence of new technologies, organizations can consume unprecedented volumes of data. Our ability to identify patterns and predict behavior has reached a level of sophistication once only dreamed about. Present-day employers increasingly invest in powerful monitoring and analytics tools to infer employees’ performance, working habits, mobility, retention, social networks, and more.

While the intentions may be good, conflicts are created with employees’ right to privacy. Studies show that employees are increasingly critical about the unfair use of their personal data and “big brother” surveillance.

Legislators have enacted laws to regulate the collection and use of employee data. However, legal compliance alone will not be sustainable in the long term. Despite their best efforts, laws and regulations will never keep up with the pace of technological advancements. Laws, including the recently enacted GDPR, also have the potential to be interpreted – and misinterpreted – to suit specific purposes.

To address these challenges, employers should apply their own “ethics lens” when developing employee monitoring. Organisations need to be aware of where monitoring crosses the line and enters the realm of creepiness.

Every organisation and individual is different, which is why employers need to know their staff – their feelings, their sentiments, and their cultural preferences. As with so many employment issues, the key to ethically sound monitoring lies in the mutual understanding and respect of employer and employees.

This blog post is based on Hannu Kasanen’s and Maarit Santtila’s presentation at Vision Zero Summit 2019 on November 14th. You can find the summit proceedings here.

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