Should Your Employees Wear Body Cameras? The Impact of Transparency on Performance and Behavior

Man holding a globe to show The Impact of Transparency on Performance and Behavior

When there’s no place to hide and you know others are watching, you are likely to behave the way you should. The only time many are likely to act in a shameful way is when they think they can get away with it. This is not just about a little kid raiding the cookie jar or a teenager sneaking out after curfew. This is about the way so-called adults behave as well.

Consider a hot topic in the news recently…the idea of having all law enforcement officers wear body cameras on the beat. This began as a way of ensuring that the officers treat all citizens fairly regardless of race, but also as a way of ensuring that citizen reviewers have an accurate picture of what transpired in each interaction. It was hoped that body cameras would have a deterrent effect on misconduct by both citizens and officers. And in fact that seems to be the result. Since wearable cameras were deployed in Oakland, California in 2010, so-called “use of force” incidents have plummeted 72%. And this in a city of 700,000 that has been challenged by racial unrest and economic disparities throughout its history. The statistics support the deterrent effect in other communities as well in more affluent and less racially-tense cities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ever since Ferguson and other recent killings of unarmed black men by white officers, there has been a huge outcry for these cameras…to protect both police and citizens in these confrontations. There is no doubt that the transparency these cameras afford has an impact on behavior. The Oakland police chief commented that “it’s not just the police that are behaving better when they know the camera is on, but people interacting with us know we’re filming, so they behave better too.”

Why not apply these lessons to the workplace? If you truly want to drive behavior or culture change in your organization, consider how powerful an impact accountability and transparency could have. We don’t recommend body cameras, but we do recommend a way of tracking, making public, and rewarding the behaviors you want to embed in the company. We also recommend having clear, fair and consistent consequences for employees who do not meet performance or culture standards.  Know clearly what behaviors you want to encourage and discourage. Make sure that all employees understand what you are looking for and why it matters. And then set up a system whereby these behaviors are observed, noted, brought to the fore and treated accordingly.

Only with the drivers of accountability and transparency can you hope to achieve major shifts in behavior which then, one hopes, will change attitudes as well for the better.

Take our free online change management assessment to see where you stand.

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