HR Management & Compliance

Optimizing Focus and Performance with Employee Monitoring

Gone are the days when monitoring an employee’s performance was only about assessing the output or results they produced. Organizations today are increasingly focusing on the input side as well—how an employee does what he or she does, how much time is spend on what the job, and how much time is taken up by personal activities. The American Management Association shows that almost 80% of major companies monitor the employees’ use of e-mail, phone, and Internet usage.

Source: Marharyta Pavliuk / shutterstock

Employee monitoring appeals to businesses because of the importance of retaining productive employees who are actively involved in driving the top-line numbers. Monitoring tools and technologies have the advantages of:

  • Helping to eliminate distractions from an employee’s work environment
  • Examining and improving workplace productivity
  • Strengthening an organization’s security
  • Preventing internal fraud or theft
  • Providing concrete evidence in case of litigation

There Are Some Challenges to Contend with When Monitoring Your Staff

Monitoring employees is not as simple as installing a platform and looking at what your people are looking at. Some common concerns include:

  • Workplace privacy concerns: How does the employer decide where to draw the line between an employee’s personal and work time?
  • Risk of misuse: Data gathered by the organization is at risk of being disclosed (or even misused) by third parties. For instance, what happens if government agencies request employee data?
  • Morale issues: Trust concerns related to whether it is even ethical to monitor people can make one wonder whether it ultimately motivates or demotivates employees. Does it, in fact, improve productivity or become a cause for rebellion and even increase churn?

Over 70% of companies use an attendance tracker to  track  their employees’ presence at work. While the uptake of employee monitoring is on the rise, there are several reasons why it may fail to deliver. Improving employee productivity does not hinge on the mere existence of a monitoring system. A tool is only good at delivering results when it is marked by clear objectives. Lack of planning can cause roadblocks.

When there is poor administration or an inappropriate implementation of policies, even insightful reports generated by a monitoring software fail to achieve the desired benefits. You must use monitoring software to gather data, analyze the root cause of problems to understand absenteeism or other productivity issues, and implement policies that seek to fix these issues.

Enhance Your Staff’s Productivity Significantly with Persistence

It is natural for employees to get distracted. No one can work in an auto mode continuously delivering outputs set for them. Everyone needs a break. But when you find your people losing their focus entirely, it’s time to bring back their attention to their work and ensure productivity remains at an optimum level.

  • Begin by setting clear expectations. Give your people the big picture. When people see how their contributions make a dent and impact the overall performance of an organization, they are more likely to be proactive and focus on their work. It is also important to align every person’s personal qualities and strengths with their professional goals and the business’s strategic objectives so that there is a personal satisfaction attached to the work they have to perform.
  • Figure out where and why employees lose productivity. Pay attention to what makes people lose their attention. Is it a big sporting event that makes them constantly check scores or rush to the breakout room to see live action? Or is the lapse in work related to a general apathy towards their work or not finding enough meaning in it? Depending on whether absenteeism is a sporadic issue or a more serious one, you will want to look at how policies or a cultural change can address the matter.
  • Reward workers. Monitoring employees is not just about penalizing negative behavior. It is also about rewarding positive actions. Reward people when they maintain their productivity. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year appraisals to give them a bonus. You can have the senior management and team leaders acknowledge top performers openly, applaud their work, and provide a morale boost by allowing them more autonomy or giving them a larger responsibility.

Using monitoring tools in a systematic way and aligning them to clearly defined goals can be an excellent way to spot gaps in employee performance and in addressing recurring issues. Make sure to let your people know what they can expect from the monitoring systems, what behaviors and actions are being monitored, and motivate them to stay focused on their assignments.

Be clear about how you draw the line—how often is it OK to take a coffee break? How would you decide whether time spent watching videos on YouTube was for research reasons to write an article or for personal vacation planning? How would you discourage waste of time?

When you improve your organization and how it treats the positive and negative behaviors of employees, your people will automatically find the dedication to focus on their work and not indulge in mindlessly playing of Candy Crush on their phones all afternoon long.

Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources.

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