Scrutiny of the behaviour of employees minute-to-minute is being done by dozens of UK business owners with the help of artificial intelligence. This is being done by analysis of data about who emails whom and when, who meets whom and when and who accesses and edits files.
The Isaak system, which ranks staff members’ attributes, is being used to monitor in real time the actions of 130,000 people in the UK and abroad.
This new trend of making use of algorithms to manage people is underscored by the use of the software which was designed by London company Status Today. But according to trade unions, such actions cause distrust. Some other however claim that this would result in reduction in the effect s of bias.
The level of collaboration of in employees is shown to the bosses by the system. It also generates information about whether employees are “influencers” or “change-makers”. This Ai based system also has the potential to run comparison of activity data and qualitative assessments about workers available from personnel files or from figures of sales performance which allows managers to gain a detailed picture of how output is affected by employee behaviour.
According to Status Today, that promises: “real-time insights into each employee and their position within the organisational network”, five law firms, a training company called Smarter Not Harder and London estate agency JBrown are the users of the system so far. The data is controlled by the owner and the employees have no right to see the data unless allowed.
Status Today said that short-term analysis rather than continuous surveillance have been done with the help of the system by the insurer Hiscox and the IT firm Cisco.
However critics of this system of monitoring of employee claim that such actions would increase the pressure on workers because there is fear among the employees about the judgement power of the algorithm and employees could also be encouraged not to take breaks or to spend time in creative thought because such time spend would not be logged by the system as useful output.
“If performance targets are being fine-tuned by AI and your progress towards them being measured by AI, that will only multiply the pressure,” said Ursula Huws, professor of labour and globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire. “People are deemed not to be working if they take their hands off the keyboard for five minutes. But they could be thinking, and that doesn’t get measured. What is this doing for innovation, which needs creative workers?”
If people don’t feel free to take breaks, there can be risks to mental health, she said. Such breaks can be surfing social media for a few minutes or playing a game.
Data on over a billion actions have already been gathered by the Isaak system and such data is used to accurately identify “central individuals within a network” for the better allocation of workload and responsibilities, and thereby “ultimately improving the overall workplace environment and reducing stress and overworking”.
(Adapted form TheGuardian.com)