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On the right track? Studying the use of biometric data to manage people in organizations

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Downie, LA 
Huysman, M 
Hafermalz, E 


Organizations increasingly use people analytics tools to monitor and control their workforce. Yet, we know little about how such technologies support management in making informed decisions about their workers. We know even less about how biometric data gets collected and used in organizations, and with what consequences. Unlike other types of data processed by people analytics tools representing work performance, biometric data represents bodily performance. Drawing on a 16-month ethnographic study, we address this gap by exploring how biometric data is used to manage and control people in an elite sport setting. In particular, we follow how coaches and athletes negotiate over complementary rhythms, what to make visible and the degree of context required to make sense of biometric data. Our study reveals that biometric data, being temporal, intimate, and decontextualized, necessitates a close relationship between managers and workers. More specifically, we illuminate a new form of control enacted through the use of biometric data: a shared control of the body, where managers and workers together control the body as a primary object of work performance. Encompassing our findings as part of a theoretical framework, we highlight the implications of our discoveries for theory on organizational control and people analytics.



35 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services, 3507 Strategy, Management and Organisational Behaviour

Journal Title

Academy of Management Discoveries

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Volume Title


Academy of Management