Don’t fence me in

Technology can do a lot of amazing things, but it also can be overused and abused. This is very evident in the area of employee relations.

Thanks (or no thanks) to GPS (Global Positioning System), for example, we now have what is euphemistically known as geofencing. What’s geofencing, you ask? It’s analogous to burying a wire around the perimeter of your backyard that’s hooked into a transmitter plugged into the wall. If you don’t want your dog to wander outside of the backyard, you set his electronic collar to one of four settings, depending on the level of electric shock you want to zap him with if he crosses the line. He soon learns to stay inbounds.

Geofencing uses global positioning in the delivery van, company car, or on the belt of a construction worker. Like the dog, employees are given a perimeter, the boundaries of which cannot be passed. If an employee does leave the perimeter — since we are a bit more humane to two-legged employees — an alert is sent back to HQ.

Of course, to defeat a GPS system, all you need to do is shred some aluminum foil into an empty paper coffee cup and place it over the GPS antenna.

But the issue isn’t defeating draconian bosses; it’s valuing employees the way you value customers.

Why do we all worry about CRM? We want to make sure the customer has a wonderful experience dealing with us. Each customer’s wants and desires are put in OLAP cubes and analyzed using the best technology money can buy — all this because customers have a direct impact on revenue.

Unfortunately, there is no line item in GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) to list employees as an asset. There are columns for tables and chairs but not people. And, excuse me; I am not being naïve here: Good geofences don’t make good employees, but treating employees with respect makes more profitable companies.

So I got to wondering if any ISV makes an ERM (employee relationship management) package. Does anyone worry about employee relationships or are they just part of the equipment that needs to be managed, “right-sized,” and of course, geofenced?

Siebel Systems Inc. has Siebel ERM, but it’s not quite what I had in mind. It’s an application suite focused on organizational performance and all of the business processes that help to drive employee performance.

Anthony Deighton, general manager of Siebel ERM, says that all of these things taken together drive employee satisfaction. I wonder.

Siebel ERM is a very tactical solution giving customers what they want. But from a long-term strategic perspective, does it give them what they need?

I spoke with Maggie Klenke, founding partner of The Call Center School. She told me that turnover rates in call centers can go as high as 300 percent a year, in good part because employee life is scheduled down to the minute.

What does a 300-percent turnover rate represent in dollars? Klenke says it equals a minimum of US$10,000 per employee in lost revenue.

Klenke held up Continental Airlines as an exemplar of a company that treats its personnel differently. Continental’s turnover rate is 5 percent. I called Continental and, while pretending to make a reservation, asked the reservationist if she liked working for Continental.

“Yes,” she answered, “because they don’t breathe down your neck. They let you do your job.”

Is geofencing a necessary evil, or is there a better way to keep your employees within bounds?