Is Employee Monitoring Software a Good Idea?
Employers have been monitoring employees forever; they’ve just never had tools as sophisticated as we do today. But even if you can watch every keystroke and file attachment a co-worker sends, should you?
Employee monitoring software is a good idea when done right. Moreover, it may be unavoidable in many modern workplaces. Appropriately used, it can be a critical tool in ensuring compliance with norms, the safety and security of assets, and protecting workers from discrimination and harassment.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of using such powerful tools like Wolfeye Remote Screen and consider what you need to do to utilize them effectively and judiciously.
Employee Monitoring Software: The Good and the Bad
As with any technology, employee monitoring can be used for good or bad. Like any tool, it also has its own in-built tendencies, which show up as both flaws and advantages. You’ll want to be aware of them.
Knowing your tools will help to decide if you want to go down this route. And, if you do decide to go for employee monitoring software, it’ll help you be a more mindful user of a potent tool.
The Benefits of Employee Monitoring Software
Some studies show that as many as 60% of employers already use software to track their employees. So, what makes these tools so popular among employers today?
Monitoring and Boosting Productivity
Enhancing productivity to improve bottom lines has long been the existential driver of all companies. But today’s business environment is ruthlessly competitive, and the slimmest gains in productivity can make all the difference to a business’s prospects.
Inevitably, business owners want to know how employees spend their time, if they’re getting their money’s worth, who to retain or promote, and who to drop from their teams. Monitoring employees using the software can help in each of these areas.
Don’t take my word for it. Studies have shown that monitoring can boost employee performance and increase company profits. This is the single most important driver of the popularity of employee monitoring tools. At the end of the day, you’re in business to make more money, and all other organizational goals flow from a firm’s success.
Ensuring the Safety and Security of Your Assets
Business owners need to protect their assets. The trouble is many assets today aren’t merely in the form of fixed assets like plant and machinery, vehicles, or offices that can be secured by guards or monitored by cameras.
Some of a company’s most valuable assets often take the form of intellectual property and other valuable insider data. Even if they don’t have patents in their name, even the smallest businesses will have built up expertise and a clientele, sometimes over many years. Employees, especially those trained in-house over many years, are another valuable asset.
Understandably, managers and business owners like to know that their information is safe and that their employees are not sharing confidential information or planning on taking it away with them.
Business owners are also held legally liable for any shortcomings of their businesses and, often, the behavior of their employees. Today, the range of aspects covered under this rubric is wide and ever-expanding. It includes:
- Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements
- Intellectual property
- Hiring and firing practices
- Workplace disputes and discrimination
- Treatment of customers
Besides, a company may have its internal norms to help it maintain consistency and improve its performance over time. Without being able to follow how their standards are being implemented, employers will find it hard to drive change. This is another reason employee monitoring software has become a valuable tool today.
Supporting Employee Needs
Finally, monitoring tools need not be punitive; they can also be used to drive employee advancement and engagement.
Employers can use software tools to support employees by promoting deserving candidates, helping those who need additional training, or providing time off where necessary.
The Drawbacks of Employee Monitoring Software
Of course, employee monitoring software has its drawbacks. Knowing these are important if you want to avoid their worst pitfalls.
Reduced Employee Morales
If your employees feel you are monitoring them to police and enforce behavior, this can feel like a loss of agency. Demotivating employees can undo any productivity gains you hope to gain from using such tools.
Employees may also find being monitored disrespectful. They may feel that an employer doesn’t value them and consider it an intrusion into their privacy. This can lead to higher stress and even burnout in the worst cases.
Doesn’t Cover Intangible Aspects of Productivity
Monitoring screens, apps, and employees‘ communications help gain insight into your business. However, they cannot be a substitute for thinking and soft skills. Many aspects of a business may not be fully captured by data, such as its culture, for instance. Ultimately, such factors may have the most significant impact on business success.
If employers and managers become overly reliant on software to monitor employees and forego greater personal exchange and other forms of feedback, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Can Create Wrong Incentives
Some studies have shown that monitoring employees can also skew incentives. For example, employees may aim to hit numbers and forego initiative if they feel their reward structure is limited in scope.
Worse still, one study has shown that monitoring employees can encourage unethical behavior as employees bend the rules to meet requirements.
Analyzing Data Requires Time, Effort, and Skill
Once the software has collected data, business owners, managers, or HR executives still need to analyze this information qualitatively to draw conclusions. This takes time and effort and can cost a business additional work hours.
Moreover, drawing the correct conclusions from data is not guaranteed, as information can conceal as much as it reveals. Drawing wrong conclusions from data would void the whole purpose of the exercise.
Challenges in Protecting Employee Privacy
Finally, the information gathered in software is an additional burden on a company. The business is now responsible for more sensitive data that it needs to keep secure. Irresponsible handling of employees‘ personal information is not just ethically problematic; you can also be held legally liable.
Employee monitoring software can be a powerful and valuable tool to improve productivity and ensure compliance.
To avoid the potential legal and ethical pitfalls of monitoring employees that come with it, you will need to:
- Establish clear goals for how you plan to use your software tools
- Ensure you legally comply with the necessary laws
- Be transparent with your employees about how and why you are using it
- Convince your employees you will monitor and evaluate them fairly
- Use the tool not to police employees but to support them
- Wirecutter: There’s (Probably) Nothing You Can Do About the New Bossware That’s Spying on You
- Oxford Academic: Neural substrates of social facilitation effects on incentive-based performance
- Olin Business School: Cleaning House: The Impact of Information Technology Monitoring on Employee Theft and Productivity
- SHRM: Is Use of Employee Monitoring Contributing to the Great Resignation?
- Harvard Business Review: Monitoring Employees Makes Them More Likely to Break Rules