Work Force Science

It’s a new week and hopefully we can move beyond the incredible happenings from last week into a period of a little more normalcy.  In Chicago we saw torrential rainfall and flooding.  In Boston there were the Marathon Bombings and a made-for-TV action movie search that lasted for a day and a half.  Texas saw a massive explosion that impacted an entire community.  Ricin was in the mail and an Elvis lover was arrested.  Craziness continues in North Korea and Venezuela.  Perhaps the only normal thing that happened was the Cubs lost a ton of games and have already been eliminated from the baseball race for this year.

Just when I thought things had to change I ran across this article in the New York Times.  The piece, in a very unapologetic way, talks about the new world of workplace studies where it seems there are no limits on what companies can do to study their workers.  Oh, I will admit I found some of the results of the studies somewhat interesting but it just seems like something is wrong with this type of privacy invasion.  When I was in business school I can remember the discussions about Hawthorne and others who studied those working in factories using stopwatches to see how they could improve efficiency in the work place.  I can remember thinking that this seemed pretty inhumane and I guess I also wondered why the guy with the stopwatch didn’t actually get a job where he might have to actually do some work himself.

Perhaps the study I would like to see is do workers perform better or worse once they realized every one of their voicemails, emails or text messages are being studied by HR and management?  Do companies that do this type of work have better or worse long term sustainability?  I also find it interesting that this work is all being done on the lower level workers while perhaps the biggest impact might happen if the leaders were studied.  After all, they are paid huge amounts of money because they have the leverage to really make a difference for the shareholders, so it would make sense that they are studied much more intensely than a call center worker, right?

Beginning this October there could be massive change in the work environment. With the full implementations of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 the health insurance exchanges will be open for business.  Everyone will be able to buy healthcare insurance through this open market and for those who can’t afford it the government will supplement their costs.  There has been a tremendous debate as to what this means for the worker.  How many people will see this as an opportunity to escape from the big corporate world to start their own businesses, now that they are not bound by the fear of not being able to get or afford healthcare insurance?  What might happen is that the only ones left in big companies will be the HR people who will then be forced to study themselves because all the other talent has left to start their own businesses or to work for companies that treat them like people, not subjects in some experiment.

Does anyone else see the craziness?  Does anyone else get upset with this lack of privacy?  Does anyone think there is a connection between this type of active and the loss of talent in big organizations?  Something to think about and watch.

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