Is employee monitoring by artificial intelligence (AI) the way to boost productivity?

Some UK businesses are using AI package Isaak to monitor employees at work. Data gathered can include information on who employees are emailing, who accesses and edits files and even which employees are meeting and when. Instead of relying on managers, computer algorithms are being used to manage people. The system can show how collaborative employees are. It can also measure activity data against information from other sources, like personnel files or sales figures, to give a picture on how behaviour affects productivity. Is this a good thing?

Trade unions argue this kind of monitoring can create distrust among staff. Being monitored so closely could create a climate where people feel watched. It could discourage people from taking breaks which might affect mental health. It might dissuade people from spending time being creative, if ‘thinking time’ isn’t logged.

Other people argue AI can remove human bias from the management process. In our precision economy, being able to gather data and identify key employees within a workforce can be good for allocating work and responsibilities. It can also identify people working too much, so loads can be lightened.

So, is this high-tech snooping or just a natural progression towards more tech-based monitoring? Even the Chief Executive of the company which made the system, Status Today, admitted there was a risk the system could be misused. The most vital ingredient in an employment relationship is trust. AI monitoring can benefit a business if it is used in a positive way, and with employee buy-in. Any management tool which is used only as a weapon is likely to do more harm than good.

Astons Solicitors
May 2019

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