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Can you ethically track your employees with microchips now? A 2019 overview

9 min read

28 December 2018

Is there a business case to ethically track employees by microchipping them? Maybe 2019 is the year this becomes an HR reality in SMEs...

Look around and see a world connected by small mobile devices, scientifically modified food, advanced medicine…and microchips in people’s arms.

Is this the way of the future?

While microchipping your staff may seem dystopic, it’s already in practice in various parts of the world despite a lot of controversy around the subject.  What will develop during the next few decades regarding microchip tracking? Is there a business case for it and will it ever be ethical?

How does it work?

The chips contain RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. This tech communicates with security systems in buildings to grant access only to those with the appropriate clearance. The clearance level and personal information is stored on the chip.The other alternative is near field communication chips that are slightly more advanced.

You can use this for work related security such as logging into a computer. The system can collect data on where employees move throughout a building, although GPS tracking is not yet part of how the tech is being used. However, it could be in future, depending on legislation and tech developments.

Who is doing this?

While the most prominent promoters of this approach comes from Sweden (where thousands of workers have been chipped instead of them using company access cards) it’s not an isolated event:

–        Mexico chipped a number of federal workers, the project motivated by a need for high security.

–        Some American companies have investigated their options and asked for volunteers to test the system.

–        With more interest growing in the UK, one supplier considers setting up a permanent base there.

Why is it even considered?

Of course this is driven by how it aids employers. The many benefits quickly cut through the controversy for those who believe it’s the only solution to improve security and even productivity.

The benefits and applications

–         A chip can’t be lost. Therefore, employees won’t lose their company access cards anymore, which instantly improves security measures.

–        Detailed tracking of workers’ movements can help you monitor productivity. If someone spends too much time where he or she isn’t required to be you can address the problem. As employees know they’re tracked they’re bound to stay in areas relevant to their work to avoid getting in trouble.

–        Security is boosted by a secure access system as no one can steal each other’s access cards.

–        A worker’s day will run smoothly if the chip in his or her hand provides access to rooms and computers. No time wasted on looking for keys, cards or trying to remember passwords.

There’s no question—it has immense value. But is that enough reason to pursue it?

The Challenges

Support for this matter is slow—so far—and in part it’s because of the many objections. Will companies need this in future? This is no clear cut matter.

The drawbacks

Although no case exists yet, chances are that if your information is kept on a tiny chip it can also be hacked. Personal security is therefore a major concern.

The matter of consent

Let’s be clear: Technically there’s no law that keeps you from microchipping your employees. In part, this is simply because it’s such a novel idea that laws haven’t been written to either support or counter their use.

But just because it’s not illegal, doesn’t mean employers can do as they please. Companies may realize the value of saving time, money and improving security, wishing to implement it in all scenarios. But workers could be against the idea and it’s their right to take that stance.

History gives a clear indication of what will happen if this becomes a prerequisite of employment. In the past authorities made it illegal for employers to require social media passwords of workers in order to monitor their activities. The public and government are bound to once again stand up for the rights of individuals if companies want to enforce their preferences on workers.

For now, you can use microchips to impact efficiency in your office, but it’s still the choice of each worker whether they want to allow the chip or not.

Your company and GDPR

An added concern of companies after the developments in 2018 is how secure employees’ information is. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) sets guidelines about using and protecting individuals’ personal information. You’ll need to act accordingly to avoid being prosecuted. This means:

–        You need extremely secure servers to store data about employees’ data and movements.

–        You can only use the data for certain applications.

–        You must always inform employees how the data is used and comply if they don’t want to take part anymore.

The strict laws and possible consequences—high fines in most cases—may keep some employers from diving into this new niche just yet.

How to get employee tracking right

This doesn’t mean you can’t improve productivity and security around your premises. Will these guidelines help you achieve your goals?

Alternative options

The future of microchip tracking is very unsure. Will it catch on? In part it may not be necessary because technology already exists that may be even more effective (and not controversial). It allows you to collect similar data and improve security.

You can invest in quality TMS software or even use mobile phones for tracking, attendance & monitoring.

How to get employees onboard

Whether you’re going to opt for chips or alternative methods, you need your employees to stay positive about the tools you use. You need these tactics:

–        Make them part of the process rather than them feeling it’s a regulation forced upon them.       

–        Communicate how a new system will improve everyone’s functioning. It shouldn’t be about having more control. Later on, remember this promise and use data to find ways of increasing productivity. Example: Don’t use a dip in productivity to critique employees—rather find out if there’s something they need to turn the situation around.

–        Never micromanage—employees won’t always act 100% in line with your expectations but don’t harass them about every little detail.

Yes, we’re living the future. But it’s still developing and most importantly, legislation changes too. It’s difficult to say what this will all lead to.

What are your concerns or questions about microchips? Get in touch and share your views.