3 Things to Know about Employee Surveillance

As remote work remains popular – at least for employees – companies seek to embrace the new world of work while ensuring that business is conducted as usual.

Part of business as usual sometimes means productivity or output tracking. Unfortunately, efforts at tracking productivity are often misguided, with some companies using monitoring systems. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that 1 in 3 companies are using software to monitor employees’ activity.

These efforts may feel comforting to executives in the short term, knowing that employees who are out of sight are in fact working hard, yet these measures often have negative effects long term, as they risk eroding employee trust, and often, simply don’t tell the whole story. Certainly, much news coverage has been devoted to just how much employees dislike getting spied on – and many interviewed shared stories showing that something like keyboard monitoring wasn’t necessarily a valid metric of productivity. Especially in knowledge worker jobs, there aren’t minute, hourly, or daily stats that can be tracked, and by tracking these workers in that way, you might rush or even stress them into both decisions and processes that need more time and research.

So what should companies do? Use Technology as a Tool, Not a Solution

Technology can seem incredibly appealing, especially at large organizations grappling with huge numbers of workers. But remember that for each technological “solution” to monitor employees comes with a technological effort to subvert that monitoring, such as these TikTok videos that teach users how to make it appear as though they’re active on Slack even when away from their computer.

Trust Your People

For organizations to thrive, there needs to be trust that people are trying to do a good job rather than scam the system; using surveillance tools erode trust. Rather than trying to track productivity through clicks, consider the outcome and overall quality of work. Communication is an important part of building trust. Workers that understand the organization’s goals and values are often more invested in the company’s overall success.

Train Your Managers

Surveillance tools are an effort to go around the people who should be responsible for evaluating employee work quality: the managers. Rather than installing spyware, ensure you have the right people in management, trust their discretion for managing performance, and train them to better work with their team members. Monitor end-goal achievement rather than clicks on a keyboard. Performance may have daily or weekly bumps, but over the long-term in a strong organization, managers should be able to judge an employee’s performance. Training your managers for this aspect of their role is critical; managers are often promoted into the position because of their strong job performance but as a manager they might need a very different skill set.

To ensure that your managers are well equipped for this role, consider some talent management solutions such as a 180 or 360 feedback assessment, which can help organizations better understand how managers might better support their teams, identify managers who need more support or training, or detect other areas of concern.

Ultimately, allocating resources to manager training rather than spyware is a much better investment.

Your people will benefit from the additional support, and in turn be more dedicated to the organization. Spyware will have the opposite effect, without any of the proven benefits.

Need help implementing manager assessments or training? Contact us today.


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