British grocery store chain Tesco has recently been forcing employees at its Dublin distribution center to wear armbands that measure their productivity. The armbands, officially known as Motorola arm-mounted terminals, keep track of how quickly and competently employees unload and scan goods in the warehouse and gives them a grade. The monitors can be turned off during lunch breaks, but anything else, including bathroom breaks and water breaks, reportedly lowers workers’ productivity score.
This disturbing move by Tesco is nearly the exact opposite of many of the actions owners should take to improve human resource management, as specified by Bolman and Deal. Bolman and Deal allude to six basic human resource strategies, one of which is to empower employees. Empowering employees includes encouraging autonomy and participation, where workers should have the personal independence to make decisions and act on them. Being forced to wear armbands that monitor employees’ every move is in no way providing them with the opportunity to be independent, or to make decisions past the point of loading and unloading warehouse goods. Empowering employees also includes redesigning work to heighten motivation and enthusiasm. Many organizations spent much of the twentieth century trying to oust the human element by designing jobs to be simple, repetitive and low skill, but recent research has shifted opinion towards the view that problems in organizations might have more to do with jobs than with workers. Tesco workers simply load and unload goods for hours on end, and the repetitiveness and boredom associated with this work likely causes employees to exert minimal effort in trying to pass the time. The information highlighted by Bolman and Deal is especially beneficial for Tesco to understand because “job redesign produces greater benefit in situations where working conditions are poor to begin with” (Morgeson and others, 2006). Finally, a key aspect of empowering...
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