How NOT to Measure and Improve Performance

July 18, 2018

And some organizations wonder why they have so much difficulty creating a climate of trust and ownership with their employees.

It’s a simple principle – if you want to improve employee performance and accountability, you have to work with them to create the necessary changes, not just impose changes on them.

“Walmart just won a patent for audio surveillance technology that measures workers’ performance, and could even listen to their conversations with customers at checkout. Based on the application, Walmart’s patented surveillance system would use a series of sensors in the cashier area to collect audio data — everything from “beeps” to “rustling noises” to “conversations between guests and an employee stationed at the terminal.” It would then analyze this information and use it to calculate various “performance metric[s]” for the employee.

But Ifeoma Ajunwa, an assistant professor at Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, told BuzzFeed News that surveilling employees can actually have the opposite effect. ‘Several studies have shown that there is a psychological impact of pervasive surveillance,’ Ajunwa said. She cited the work of Harvard professor Ethan Bernstein, who found that workplace surveillance ‘can lead to this opposition feeling, where employees view the employer not as benevolent, but as dictators. And it can impact that attitude toward the higher-up and can lead to resistance.’

She also cited a study that found that excess surveillance can slow down workers, who are less creative and efficient when they’re nervous or feel they’re being watched.  

Ajunwa said one of the most troubling aspects of this kind of tech is that the system’s purpose could change after it’s installed, a concept known as mission creep.

‘Employers need to think long and hard about whether this will solve the problem of worker productivity, or if it’s going to make that problem worse,’ Ajunwa said.”

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