Employee Monitoring, Productivity

A More Insightful, Proactive Approach to Employee Monitoring

By Elizabeth Harz

Also known as “bossware” and even “employee surveillance”, employee monitoring has been placed in the bucket of technologies that companies force on their employees. Whatever you call it, its use is on the rise and it looks like it’s here to stay. As of 2022, 60% of companies use some kind of software to monitor employees.  General productivity isn’t the only justification for implementing employee monitoring. Now that 58% of office workers work from home at least one day a week, risk and threats are even more pronounced for companies, and managers find it harder to spot issues.

While software is likely necessary to support a distributed workforce, there are real issues with how employee monitoring has been used. Companies have been called out for implementing technology without telling employees, treating employees as “guilty until proven innocent,” and using monitoring tactics that are invasive. Smart companies are already making big changes to their approach, and not just to pacify naysayers. Rather than simply monitor for productivity and threats, companies can analyze what they see and proactively improve things – for everyone’s benefit, including employees. This more insightful approach is called Workforce Behavior Analytics, and it’s a better way to manage a distributed workforce.

What is Workforce Behavior Analytics?

Employee monitoring is just what it sounds like – a passive collection of information about employee activity. This could include collecting emails, website visits and noting idle time on a computer. Everyone is treated the same, there is little context to the reporting, and people start to “game the system” because they do not feel like they are being treated fairly.

Companies need a more proactive approach to understanding their remote and hybrid workforce and working together with employees to increase productivity and keep companies and employees safe. Enter workforce behavior analytics, a more proactive, analytical approach to augmenting team management than employee monitoring.  It increases insights and control and serves to support a distributed workforce for the long term.  

Here’s how it works:

  • Machine learning establishes benchmarks for typical activity
  • Real-time alerts notify managers and leaders when significant deviations from the baseline occur 
  • Automatically generated risk scores help manage each employee based on their access level, activity and so on.
  • Psycholinguistic analysis and sentiments expressed in emails and other communication triggers notifications 
  • Digital records of activity and data access are created to show compliance, run audits and conduct investigations when necessary

Workforce Analytics Proactively Supports Organizations and Employees

Understand the “new normal” – Workforce behavior analytics helps create a baseline understanding of overall productivity, sentiment and general risk and compliance, which can create a better perspective for managers. Not only can companies tackle any obvious issues that they find, it gives them an understanding of what’s “normal” so that abnormal activity becomes easier to spot and problems can be managed thoughtfully.

Spot issues early – Once a baseline is established, companies can flag activity that falls outside of the norm. Perhaps someone becomes less productive, or starts accessing sensitive data more frequently. More than anything, these early signs allow managers and HR to reach out and talk to employees. So much the better if an issue can be resolved and an unhappy or unproductive worker can be motivated. And if someone is unhappy, a frank conversation earlier in the process can put the company on the alert. 

Improve productivity and morale – Best of all, ongoing workforce behavior analytics becomes a positive influence on the entire organization. By spotting issues and resolving them quickly and reaching out to employees that show signs of concern, companies have the ability to reduce overall turnover and build a better culture in a hybrid or distributed work environment.

While there is a need for more oversight when people work remotely, simply monitoring employees is not the ideal approach. Poorly managed monitoring can create a culture of distrust, and serve to demotivate employees – the opposite of what it’s intended to do. It also provides little insight for companies, so it’s hard for them to know why someone might be unproductive or what to do about it. With workforce behavior analytics, activity is put into context and managers are in a position to work with employees to improve productivity and solve issues, creating a healthier, happier, and more productive work environment.

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About the author

Elizabeth Harz
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