Algorithmic management: 1 in 3 workers left in the dark

Algorithmic management: 1 in 3 workers left in the dark

A new survey of workers reveals a major lack of information about the application of algorithmic management tools within companies. 34% of respondents, predominantly workers in the ICT and telecommunications sector across Europe, reported that they do not know if algorithmic management tools are being implemented in their workplace.

Increasingly, companies in the services sectors are turning towards using  tools and techniques that enable automated or semi-automated management decision-making. These techniques rely heavily on data collection and surveillance of workers. As well as in recruitment they are frequently used in performance management.

“These results are very concerning. When people do not know the process by which their work is assessed and managed, it becomes very hard for them to question decisions that shape their everyday working lives. Companies should learn the lessons from the precedents of algorithmic management reinforcing discriminatory practices. It is by no means a given that these new tools and techniques will meet ethical expectations of workers and the public. Social partners must work together to build transparency and accountability into the application and development of algorithmic management approaches,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.

As Matthias Weber, Director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s ‘Competence Centre on the Future of Work’, further underlines, “this survey clearly shows that there is a lack of understanding knowledge from the workers’ side regarding the functioning, use and risks of algorithmic management at the workplace. Employers need to take responsibility to make algorithmic management tools more transparent in order to raise workers’ acceptance and inhibit undesirable outcomes. This process has to be accompanied by active trade unions.”

The survey, undertaken by UNI Europa and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Competence Centre on the Future of Work, was completed by approximately 1400 workers across Europe. The results, as well as recommendations are summarized in a new publication: Algorithmic Management – Awareness, Risks and Response of the Social Partners. The report is also available in French, German and Spanish.

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