Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member David Creelman.
Thanks to new technology we are able to monitor employees' activities like never before. From an analytics point of view, that's fantastic and we can easily anonymize the data to protect employees' privacy. Unfortunately, the main use of employee monitoring has the opposite intent–it's meant to invade the employee's privacy. What should we do about that?
Currently, the main means of employee monitoring is to take pictures of employee screens every 15 minutes or so. That monitoring will allow you to check if the employee is snoozing (e.g., check to see if the same page is on the screen with no changes) or is doing non-work-related activity (e.g., looking at Instagram).
The reason for this monitoring is straightforward, managers don't trust their employees. The downside of monitoring is also straightforward: employees hate it - and why wouldn't they? Does anyone enjoy feeling untrustworthy?
At The Workforce Institute, we've recently released new research on the topic of trust in the modern workplace and the results provide hard evidence of why employee monitoring can potentially be so damaging:
Given these facts, it becomes clear that the last thing an organization wants is to have employees who feel they are not being trusted. How then do we approach employee monitoring? Let me jump right in with my own checklist of ideas on how to approach the issue of when and how to use these monitoring technologies:
This leads us to the question we probably should have asked at the beginning: “What are we trying to solve for?” Are we trying to make managers feel more in control? Are we worried about widespread slacking off? Are we concerned about a few problem employees? Being clear about this will point you in the right direction.
The other question you need to ask is whether the cure (constant monitoring) is worse than the disease (some degree of slacking off from work).
There's not a simple answer to these questions but they do need to be asked. Employee monitoring may be a necessary tool for remote workforces; just don't implement it without thinking hard about how to do it right and the impact it may have on trust in your organization.
Do you feel trusted by your employer or not? How has this positively or negatively affected your working life? Tell us about it in the comments!
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