Soon - managers will have the power to close your email account - freeze your pay - call security and lock you out of the office - all with a few mouse clicks. Personal involvement in the fate of each employee will be reduced to a minimum.
Difficult episodes like dismissal will be carried out remotely, over the network. The human resources equivalent of the laser-guided smart bomb is about to be launched upon the working world.
Business Layers, a company based in New Jersey, is marketing eProvisions Day One, software that promises to streamline personnel management. Described as an application that "allows organizations to dynamically allocate both physical and digital resources", it will boost the authority and influence of managers who would prefer to handle their staff by keeping face-to-face encounters to a minimum. An employee can be deprovisioned
or locked out of an organisation within seconds of the decision to terminate their employment. Of course, there's nothing too sinister or illegal about this, its a further demonstration of how technology has as much potential to assert authority as increase openness and flexibility.
The software has been developed as an ingenious way of both keeping track of resources and balancing the workload shared by employees. Among other efficiencies, this information might reduce the hidden costs of having to hire and fire people. However, the technology could also be used to create a climate in some organisations which permitted employers to hire and fire without the incurring the emotional cost of having to break the bad news. In these cases, it will eliminate the friction of decency and responsibility that makes many jobs secure and bearable.
Hopefully, software like this will be installed without first having to uninstall the traditional rules and protocols that hold companies together. It's easy to see how having the best intentions could quickly lead to some bosses taking the path of least resistance: mass layoffs at the click of a button marked ‘terminate employment and liabilities'. It's so much easier to do the deed if you know that Bob is out of the office, choosing his lunch - you'll never hear his angry drumming on the glass doors far, far below.
Making it so easy to manage the trickier parts of human resourcing could also lead to unfortunate mistakes. Imagine, a whole corporation, fired when some negligent personnel manager absent-mindedly double-clicks when she should have single-clicked. The entire operation would find itself locked out and logged off in a case of accidental corporate self-destruction. Even worse, rival companies or disgruntled former employees might hack into the network and cause crippling destaffing from anywhere in the world.
There could be consequences for the notice period. In most cases, workers and employees have symmetrical responsibilities regarding when they should inform the other party of an imminent termination of employment. This has in part evolved as a bureaucratic safety valve – giving your boss prior notice gives him time to find a replacement and complete the paper work that will see you on your way.
Similarly, it's up to your boss to let you know that you're going to be laid off in good time – fear that you could be laid off at a moment's notice does not help producitivity. Software that accelerates the process of staff change could cause the reduction or disappearance of the notice period.
As ever, this powerful new technology (a direct result of the interconnectivity of the modern information workplace) needs to be introduced alongside a new commitment to manage responsibly and with consideration. Without reasonable ethical and legal provisions, we might, for example, hear of firms where urine is automatically tested after each visit to the staff toilet facilities.
Subsequent analysis might reveal that an individual has recently consumed drugs, alcohol or other proscribed substances (pork, a soft drink produced by a rival company, cigarettes). This could be used as evidence that the employee had contravened company rules and be instantly acted upon by automated personnel management and enforcement software. The transgressor would return to his desk to find both an email announcing his dismissal and a couple of security personnel to help him leave quietly.
But surely no company could ever be that sneaky?www.i-resign.com