It's 10:30, Do You Know Where Your Employees Are? - InformationWeek

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7/7/2009
07:24 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
Commentary
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It's 10:30, Do You Know Where Your Employees Are?

Be careful what you wish for, because a new offering from AT&T and Xora promises to make it easier than ever for SMBs track their employees' whereabouts. But do you really, really want to know?

Be careful what you wish for, because a new offering from AT&T and Xora promises to make it easier than ever for SMBs track their employees' whereabouts. But do you really, really want to know?Designed specifically for small and midsize businesses in industries such as construction, field services, transportation and distribution, the new Xora GPS Locator from AT&T application works on most AT&T mobile devices - from phones to laptops and specialized mobile devices for specific industries.

The service doesn't require software to be loaded on the phone. Any time the device is on, admins can see their location on Xora's Web-based maps (using Google Maps). According to the companies, "Web-based reports indicate where and when vehicles are stopped, and for how long, making it easy to identify time spent at job sites, or on breaks."

"Once companies gain real-time visibility into the locations and activities of their mobile employees, it's like someone took the blinders off," said Sanjay Shirole, CEO of Xora in a statement. "More importantly, as a result, companies can take action based on what they are seeing in order to improve the efficiency of their business."

True enough. But at what cost -- beyond the $21.99/month per phone subscription fees? Is the goal really to become Big Brother and track every employee's location at all times. And what if you see an unexplained stoppage? Do you confront the worker and demand an explanation? Is that really the way to engender trust and enhance motivation?

I'm not saying this kind of technology isn't useful, or that field employees haven't been known to goof off on occasion.

But shouldn't you be measuring results, not effort? What if a salesperson's GPS readouts don't add up, but they're selling more than all your other reps? Would it really make sense to force that person to change the way they work?

Perhaps this technology could be used in situations where concerns have been raised, and you need to track a problematic employee. But laying down a blanket policy of tracking everyone's whereabouts at all times could backfire. And you may learn more than you really want to know. And then what are you going to do?

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