Building Trust in an Age of Increasing Employee Monitoring Software

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Building Trust in an Age of Increasing Employee Monitoring Software

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As remote work has surged, so has employee monitoring software. These tools go by many names and serve many purposes, but they all share the same overall function — to keep an eye on what workers are doing. They also share the same questions about privacy and ethics.

Managers need to be able to keep their teams on track. At the same time, they need their employees’ trust, but it’s hard for people to trust someone they feel is looking over their shoulder 24/7. Addressing this balance is key to success in modern workplaces.

Employee Monitoring Software: The Good

There’s a reason why 90% of organizations employing freelancers and 85% of IT businesses use employee monitoring software. It provides transparency managers can’t get otherwise, even in office. Tools that track keystrokes and record screens make it easy to see exactly what team members spend their time on.

Employee monitoring software can also boost productivity and safety. Workers may take their time on the clock more seriously, knowing there’ll be evidence of any non-work-related activity. The same accountability factor can promote compliance with company security policies.

Screen recordings aside, many of these tools provide data on how staff spend their time. This information can help managers reward top performers and instruct others to encourage higher standards. Tailoring this feedback to each worker can drive engagement.

Employee Monitoring Software: The Bad

As employee monitoring software has become more popular, though, cracks have started to show. Most notably, many aren’t comfortable with it. A quarter of businesses using these tools say it drove employees to look for a new job and 20% say it even made workers lash out at the company.

Monitoring software may make employees feel like their higher-ups don’t trust them. They may also wonder if the monitoring could jeopardize their personal privacy, putting identifiers or other sensitive data at risk of a breach.

These fears and concerns can counteract this software’s purported productivity benefits. Micromanaging and “parenting” employees often lead to immature behavior from employees, as they react to what they feel is a breach of trust. Workers may also feel disengaged and not perform at their best when worried about their privacy.

How to Maintain Trust While Using Monitoring Tools

In light of both these benefits and downsides, businesses should approach employee monitoring carefully. Attention to some key best practices will ensure organizations maintain trust with their workforce while boosting productivity and compliance.

Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries

The first and most foundational step in building trust with these tools is to be transparent. Roughly one in six employees isn’t aware that it’s possible to track their activity, suggesting there’s a huge gap between monitoring and people’s knowledge of it. That’s a recipe for feelings of mistrust. Managers can mitigate those feelings by being upfront about their use of these tools.

It’s important to be transparent about why and how businesses use tracking software, too. That includes clear boundaries on what not to track and staff’s rights regarding this software. It helps to view employee monitoring as a way to gauge company performance and ensure compliance with security policies, not a punitive measure or out of a lack of trust.

Emphasize Rewards and Constructive Feedback

Similarly, managers should emphasize these tools as a way to recognize top performers more than to single out low performers. Consider providing bonuses or other incentives to those who meet certain productivity standards.

When employees fall short of goals, use it for constructive feedback. Ask them what they need to help them perform better and consider that conventional metrics may not always indicate productivity — some people perform well in unconventional ways. This more constructive approach may ease feelings of micromanagement and drive positive engagement.

Practice Good Data Governance and Security

Businesses must also ensure employee monitoring tools don’t jeopardize workers’ privacy. That starts with reviewing different options’ security features and product details. Only use software with advanced encryption standards and that doesn’t record 24/7. It may seem counterintuitive, but the less data they collect, the better.

In cases where these tools don’t inform individualized rewards or goals, employers should use appropriate data anonymization techniques to keep personal data private. Regardless of the personal details in this data, don’t store it for long. Continually review employee monitoring data and delete whatever no longer serves a value-driving purpose.

Involve Employees

To maximize trust, organizations should also involve employees at every step. Enterprises not using this software yet can poll workers about their feelings about it, what uses they’d be comfortable with and what they think would go too far.

Companies already using monitoring software should communicate with workers about it, such as asking what they like and dislike, and its impact on their professional and personal lives. Ask staff for suggestions for improvement and take them seriously. The more engaged workers are in this decision-making, the less likely they are to feel untrusted.

Employee Monitoring Is a Balancing Act

Productivity tracking and other monitoring technology can provide crucial operational insights. At the same time, it can create tricky ethical situations, especially when employees don’t know much about it. Fostering inclusive conversations around this technology and its usage is the first step in using it fairly.

Businesses can gain a lot from this software and maintain their employees’ trust with the right approach. Striking that balance may not be easy, but it’s essential to building a productive, engaged and safe workplace.