February 15, 2023

How to Monitor Employees in 2023 (Without Overstepping)

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Key Takeaways

  • Workplace monitoring can increase accountability, decrease time theft, and improve business intelligence.
  • However, it can also make employees feel like they are being spied on and cause a breakdown in trust.
  • Transparency and communication are crucial if your company decides to proceed with employee monitoring software.

Employee monitoring software can improve productivity and provide insight into workplace activities, but it can also erode employee trust and make workers feel like they are being unfairly punished.

In some cases, the best solution may be to implement performance management software. This alternative to workplace monitoring helps cultivate a culture of trust and transparency at every level of the business.

However, workplace monitoring is a necessary precaution for businesses, like those in the finance, field service, and healthcare industries. It is possible to successfully implement workplace monitoring tools and tactics as long as companies follow a collaborative and transparent approach that doesn’t violate employees’ privacy rights.

Also read: Why Employee Performance Management Is Important

What does workplace monitoring involve?

Generally speaking, workplace monitoring involves keeping track of employees’ locations and activities using surveillance methods. There are many different tools and techniques available under the workplace monitoring umbrella, including:

  • Employee monitoring software.
  • Time clocks.
  • Video surveillance.
  • Audio recordings.
  • GPS tracking.
  • Biometric technology.

Some workplace monitoring techniques, like time tracking, have been around for decades, to the point where we don’t even think of them as employee monitoring anymore.

However, new advances in technology are happening all the time, and in recent years specific and targeted employee tracking has become possible. We are now at the point where businesses can track every single keystroke and all of an individual’s website browsing history, for example.

These next-level surveillance capabilities have raised a lot of questions about privacy and security tradeoffs and whether or not workplace monitoring is worth it.

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What are the benefits of workplace monitoring?

When done right, workplace monitoring can offer many potential benefits to businesses. Namely, this kind of monitoring can lead to increased productivity, faster threat assessment, and more evidence-based decision-making opportunities.

Increased productivity

Some companies find that increased accountability leads to greater productivity and efficiency. In turn, this helps to prevent time theft and boosts team performance overall. This also contributes to increased revenue, since the company is getting more work for the same amount of money and time.

Also read: How Performance Bonuses Help Avoid Bias and Increase Productivity

Faster threat assessment

For companies worried about security, workplace monitoring can help IT and security teams identify potential threats and breaches more quickly, especially bad actors inside the company.  Surveillance also makes it easier to enforce certain company policies, like internet usage rules.

More evidence-based decision-making

Finally, data gathering contributes to business intelligence and workforce analytics in platforms like Insightful, providing a more complete picture of employee activities. This data can then be used to inform evidence-based business and personnel decisions.

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What are the drawbacks of workplace monitoring?

The benefits of workplace tracking are also balanced by the potential negative effects of employee monitoring. These include lower employee morale, higher turnover, weakened cybersecurity, and bigger compliance risks.

Lower employee morale

For one, monitoring can actually backfire by reducing a sense of agency and making employees feel less responsible for their actions. In turn, this encourages them to take unapproved breaks, work more slowly, and steal office equipment, among other undesirable behaviors.

Employees may also feel like they are not trusted by the company and are being punished for no reason whatsoever. If the employee monitoring software was implemented in response to a particular individual’s infraction, then the entire team or company may feel like they are bearing the consequences for one person’s behavior. This can foster resentment, deplete morale, and cause a breakdown in team communication.

Higher turnover

If employees are not told about the surveillance and then later find out about it, they will likely feel a deep sense of distrust in the company, and may even feel betrayed by management. Feeling lied to can also breed resentment among employees and cause them to start looking for new jobs, potentially increasing turnover.

Weakened cybersecurity

Too much data capture and access can actually increase security concerns. The more information that is gathered, the more vulnerable it becomes to breaches and hacks. IT and security teams might also inadvertently capture private employee information that the company should not have access to, resulting in major privacy violations.

Bigger compliance risks

It also takes time to sort through monitoring data, and that data doesn’t provide the whole context of employee actions. Automating decisions based on employee tracking surveillance can lead to wrongful termination and other outcomes that risk discrimination.

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How should HR teams approach monitoring employees?

There are many situations that make workplace monitoring software a smart risk management investment, and in these cases, human resources (HR) teams must approach workplace monitoring with sensitivity and care.

Identify specific needs and goals

HR teams need to think deeply about whether or not workplace monitoring will address the symptoms or the underlying problem. For instance, if you don’t trust your employees not to steal, then you may be better off hiring new people that you do trust than obsessively monitoring workers that you don’t.

Decision-makers should also reflect on whether their lack of trust stems from the employees’ behavior or from top-down pressure from micromanaging leaders. If performance issues are a concern, it may be more productive to broach the concerns with the employee(s) and explore the possibilities of performance management software than to jump straight to workplace surveillance.

Research potential software solutions

As business leaders weigh these questions, they need to keep in mind that different workplace monitoring tools are more suited to certain goals. For example, security cameras can help prevent theft but won’t protect sensitive data from being hacked.

Meanwhile, remote monitoring software can help prevent time theft by work-from-home employees, but it won’t help the company keep track of field techs’ locations. Workplace monitoring tools should match the goals your company is trying to accomplish.

Ask employees for feedback

Transparency from the start is of paramount importance, so HR teams should ask for input from employees on what kinds of surveillance and what level of monitoring they would be comfortable with. For example, personal devices should not be monitored, even if employees do work activities on them.

Once a decision is made, HR leaders should communicate what data is being collected, how often it is updated, and how long it is kept. Leaders then need to be able to clearly explain how workplace monitoring contributes to achieving legitimate business goals, such as hitting revenue targets or keeping techs safe in the field.

Furthermore, this data should also be used to benefit employees—by informing performance bonuses, for example—instead of just punishing them for infractions. Employees should also be given access to their personal data if possible.

If you’re looking for workplace monitoring tools, check out our Remote Monitoring Management (RMM) Software Guide. However, if your business’s needs are centered around performance management, explore top solutions in our Performance Management Software Guide.

1 Performance Pro

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Performance Pro is a customizable, user-friendly, automated performance management platform. Save time with our customizable libraries of content from competencies to tools that help managers leave more meaningful feedback & establish smart goals. Empower your employees to pursue their own professional development, retain your top talent, provide a sense of purpose with goal alignment to strategic objectives, & truly drive an increase in performance & achievement throughout your organization.

Learn more about Performance Pro

2 Coursera for Business

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Grow the skills and confidence your employees need to advance your business—and their careers.

Coursera for Business delivers critical skill development paths for any role, so you can realize the extraordinary talent within your entire workforce. Retain, advance, and accelerate the growth of any employee, chart the value and progress of learning programs, and establish a talent-driven advantage against your competitors—all within one talent platform.

Learn more about Coursera for Business

3 ClearCompany

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Conduct better reviews, increase feedback quality, and simplify review cycle management. ClearCompany Performance Management helps you implement an employee-first approach by shifting the focus of performance reviews from evaluation and ranking to employee growth and future potential. ClearCompany helps your company drive engagement and focus with goal-planning tools while increasing the value and reducing the workload of performance review cycles.

Learn more about ClearCompany

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