The #1 Reason Your Employees Balk at Workplace GPS Tracking — and What You Can Do About It

Hint: 7 out of 10 say it’s not what you think!

When employees balk at the idea of workplace GPS tracking, which pinpoints an employee’s location during working hours, many employers initially assume it’s because their employees have something to hide.

However, a new independent survey of 1,000 US employees reveals just the opposite is true.1 On employees’ list of concerns related to GPS tracking, fears about GPS revealing their location ranks dead last — by a long shot. Seven out of 10 employees with prior experience using GPS in the workplace aren’t concerned about their employer knowing their location.

So, what are employees’ biggest concerns about workplace GPS tracking?

Data Strain and Battery Drain

Across the board (for both employees who are familiar with GPS and those who aren’t), the No. 1 concern about workplace GPS is data and battery drain.

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This new data is significant for employers who currently use or are considering implementing GPS tracking. A focus on actual — rather than perceived — concerns about GPS in the workplace can make a big impact on morale and acceptance of the new technology.

But why do data and battery drain top the list for employees?

Discover what employees REALLY think about GPS tracking

Getting to the Heart of the Issue

Today’s employees are increasingly tech savvy. And as the survey indicates, they’re pretty comfortable allowing non-work apps to track their location (including Facebook, one of the most notorious data and battery hogs).

Why is GPS, which is on the low end of data and battery consumption, a sticking point?

“While concerns about ‘big brother’ watching aren’t at the top of the list of employee concerns, that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t take pains to explain how and why they plan to use the technology,” says Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication and Technology. “Previous research reveals that the majority of employees are concerned about employers accessing their personal data via mobile devices used for work purposes. And nearly half expressed concern about their employer tracking the location of their devices.”

What’s to be done?

“Understanding the issues that do top the list for employees when it comes to GPS is more important now than ever,” Holtz continues. “In the era of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), companies could err in their assumptions that employees are fine with their employers tapping into their personal devices for work purposes. The same research that revealed some unease about employers tracking employees via their smartphones also found that 45 percent of employees were concerned about the impact of work-related activities on their devices’ performance. That same concern is reflected in [the GPS] survey. Add to that the concern that GPS tracking can actually increase the amount of their mobile bill and you could wind up with some suspicion among employees, distrust, anger, and even a decline in levels of employee engagement.”

“In the era of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), companies could err in their assumptions that employees are fine with their employers tapping into their personal devices for work purposes.”

- Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication and Technology

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The heart of the issue: communication, culture, and values.

“The answer is to communicate thoroughly, effectively, and proactively. Be clear about both the goals of the tracking effort and the technical details. Use infographics or other visuals [like the one below!] that help employees understand at a glance the program’s impact on power consumption and data usage. Be equally clear about how the data will be used and when the data will be collected and used and how it fits into the company’s business processes, values, and culture,” Holtz concludes.

Focus on Benefits to Employees

The idea of using personal data and battery life for workplace GPS tracking is also far more palatable when employers make an effort to speak to the benefits that impact employees. And, contrary to popular wisdom, employees see a number of benefits.

The employee survey indicates that, across the board, the majority of employees see benefits of greater accountability, accurate paychecks, and access to a tool that helps them accurately track mileage and travel time.

Focusing on these benefits, and any others that you feel particularly benefit your unique business, can make a big difference in how employees feel about workplace GPS. Effectively answering the “What’s in it for me?” factor goes a long way to balance out how employees view giving up precious personal data and battery life.

Educate Yourself (and Then Employees) About Data and Battery Drain

Of course, before employers can talk to their employees about the real numbers behind data and battery drain from GPS, they’ll need to do some research themselves.

“Every app is a little bit different,” says Nate McIntyre, QuickBooks Time senior mobile app developer. “It’s impossible to say ‘GPS tracking apps use X amount of data and battery life.’ That’s going to depend on the app itself and other external factors like availability of Wi-Fi and how mobile your workforce is. But, in general, you should be able to get a really good idea of how much data a GPS tracking app uses by using it yourself and talking to the app’s developers.”

In particular, make sure you’re comfortable showing employees how to check their battery and data usage (even the most tech-savvy employees may not know how to do this), since looking at real numbers is going to be the best reassurance to employees. Employers may also find these approaches helpful in addressing employee concerns.

1. Encourage employees to put GPS to the test

The GPS tracking survey reveals that experience matters. How? Employees who had used GPS previously ranked their concerns about workplace GPS tracking as much less than those who hadn’t (about 20 percent less!).

It’s only human to fear the unknown more than the known. It may be helpful to arrange an informal meeting where employees who have previous experience with workplace GPS tracking can answer questions for employees who haven’t used the technology.

2. Encourage employees to look at the numbers

Keep in mind that correlation doesn’t mean causation. If employees start noticing battery life draining or data going more quickly after GPS is introduced, look at the numbers before jumping to conclusions. Encourage employees to do the same by looking at battery usage by app on their phones.

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Often, it’s simply a case of “my battery is going out the window faster than I want it to,” without a shred of evidence that makes GPS the culprit. If you’re introducing a GPS tracking app that uses data responsibly, chances are that another app or combination of apps is the true culprit, with the new kid on the block — GPS tracking — taking the heat.

3. Provide resources to ease concerns

Battery life and data life can feel like nebulous concepts for employees, and without concrete numbers, fears about a new app sapping away valuable data and battery power can run wild. Giving employees resources to quantify exactly how much this new app asks of them will not only set their minds at ease about how much data your GPS app is using, but it shows transparency: a great morale booster.

This one-page resource helps employees understand how GPS tracking uses data and battery life, puts the numbers in perspective, and lets employees know how to check the numbers on their own.

4. Offer safety nets (aka peace of mind)

When you’ve done your research and know about how much data and battery life the GPS app you’ve chosen is likely to use, put your money where your mouth is. Give employees a safety net so they don’t feel the amount of personal data required of them is limitless. For example, let employees know that if the app uses more than 1 gigabyte of data during the month, you’ll reimburse them up to a certain amount. If the app you choose uses data responsibly, you shouldn’t have to actually uses this safety net. But the peace of mind it gives employees is invaluable.

For employees on the go, offer portable charging devices to eliminate fears about battery drain. For employees in the office and on the road, offer to loan charging cords, to ease concerns.

GPS on Your Side

By focusing on employees’ real concerns about workplace GPS — rather than imagined or anecdotal concerns — employers can put everyone on the right foot when introducing and training on the new technology.

Remember, focus on benefits employees see from GPS, and take the time to educate employees (and yourself) about just how much data and battery life the GPS app you’ve chosen actually uses. Employees will appreciate the research and the transparency. And you’ll have higher morale and less resistance to the new technology to thank for it.

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