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Construction Culture

Time Tracking Your Employees with GPS in Construction… is it worth it?

Time Tracking your employees with GPS in construction… is it worth it? What are the positives and negatives and what other factors are impacted by this HR move. What options are there, and is it necessary for all types of construction companies to utilize this level of big brother-ism?

In this article we raise some interesting points that are food for thought in the pursuit of controlling human trust.

On paper, GPS tracking is great, and for some companies, for liability purposes, it is critical to know exactly where your people are at all times during the work day. Some go as far as having way points that are tagged once one has arrived within a geo-fence. Companies are looking to create as many efficiencies as possible to increase margins in “time & material” type businesses. However, efficiencies can transcend their initial intentions in some cases.

Let’s face it, the impetus is a trust issue… employees feeling like they should get paid regardless of performance. Where does this element of entitlement come from?  And why is there such a massive gap in understanding between owners and employees? You are about to be hit with a massive generalization here, which is probably not true 100% of the time. Here it goes… The majority of construction labourers are male, yes there are some females but a vast number are the former. So, with that said, how many of these boys, from 1 to 10 stand up in elementary class and say to the world, “astronaut, fireman, doctor, you-tuber, rockstar no thanks! I want to spray shot-crete in the freezing cold in a muddy foundation hole”… the answer is probably not even one in a thousand. For many labourers their job is a life situation, a plan-c, or even just the result of no plan at all. This creates a foundation of discontent for their situation, which gets mixed in with how they view the person or company who is employing them. They feel that they are doing ALL the hard work and they deserve more than they receive. So where does this leave the employer? It leaves them with a trust gap that is filled with narcissism and negativity. The problem is that there are many honest good willed workers who are trying to get ahead and who have to shield themselves from this toxic undercurrent.

The equation is then, how to cultivate trust and still maintain some level of oversight to maximize efficiency.

When employees hear that the deployment of a GPS system for time keeping is eminent, there is typically some level of acceptance due to the omission of clunky paperwork, but also the presence of fear that their privacy and liberties will be compromised for no extra benefit except to the employer. There are many systems that integrate GPS technology on a number of varying levels. On one extreme, some are tracking the employees all the time the app is on, and others are less invasive with self triggered check-in when only in the geo-fence area. Question is, which is better? “We don’t trust you” or “we trust just you are doing it right, and we can see if you’re not”. This is completely up to you.

There are also some hardware factors to consider. Consistent tracking requires the mobile device to frequently ping the location services which requires significant battery use and in some cases extra data burn. This matters if you are supplying mobile devices or if you are expecting employees to use their own. The latter can be a huge point of contention, as the employee may feel like they are giving you more than they are getting back as they are the ones paying their bill.  If you are asking them to use theirs, you are subject to the coverage and restrictions of their phone plan.

From an HR and employer brand point of view, implementing any level of technology is important in todays information economy and you are considered a dinosaur if you don’t use anything. Also, those of the younger generation coming in are going expect to be using technology and not paper to log time. The trust part is key… and how you position the use of technology as a source of efficiency and how that cost saving will benefit them is a useful persuasion tool. Perhaps establish some small but meaningful perks that make the shift more palpable. Also using an opt in check-in system is a great choice as there is less of a feeling of big brother and more of an accountability dynamic being established. If they check in/out outside of the geo-fence, they are flagged, not punished immediately and subsequently it is known they are not performing their job duties correctly.

You will know what your company’s situation is and what you think your staff will take well to. For instance, having a crew of electricians vs a crew of rebar labourers maintain completely different levels of capability and often education levels. The most important thing is that you consider the type of work your people are doing and how bothered they will be with whatever you attempt to deploy.

About writer

As the founder of SiteMax Systems, James has developed and deployed GPS based time logging systems with thousands of users and has heard first hand of the challenges that business owners have experienced in rolling out such systems. In addition to this practical experience in this field, James spent many years creating employer brand strategies for blue chip companies.

SiteMax offers a robust construction productivity system used by GC’s and Subs to optimize their workflows which includes time keeping functionalities.