We live in a time when having more information is almost always synonymous with having better chances of achieving success, higher flexibility, a more significant number of options to choose from. Businesses of all sizes strive to obtain every bit of information they can in the hope of getting the edge over their competitors, gleaning insights that would help them improve the efficiency of their processes and decrease costs. Introducing new and new ways to collect and process data is perceived as one of the integral aspects of digital transformation. One field that has been rapidly growing in popularity over the last couple of decades is IT employee monitoring; however, only recent developments in digital and connected technology allow it to achieve the sophistication it has now. Along with obvious advantages, it has a number of serious drawbacks, and it is up to every specific business to decide if the pros outweigh the cons. But what exactly are these pros and cons? Let’s find out.
1. Better control over time-wasting
If an employee works full-time, he is paid for the entire eight hours he spends on the job, irrespective of how much of that time he dedicated to work per se. Nobody works with absolute efficiency — according to studies, employees on average waste between 90 and 270 minutes every workday. Every wasted minute costs the employer money, for he pays the full employee salary even if he spends a significant portion of the day browsing Facebook.
Introduction of employee monitoring allows the employer to keep track of what each employee actually does, which results in less wasted time and an opportunity to make better decisions to improve the results further.
2. Insights into opportunities for improvement
Very often tracking the performance of individual employees isn’t even the primary purpose of monitoring programs. By obtaining huge batches of information on how employees perform under certain conditions, the employer obtains useful insights that can be used to change overall company policies. That was the reason why Yahoo banned its employees from working from home back in 2013 — the results of employee tracking program demonstrated that telecommuters were on average less productive than those who worked in the office, and so telecommuting had to go.
3. Singling out high- and low-performing employees
It is always a good idea to know who are the most hard-working, efficient and effective people on your team so that you can reward them and encourage them to do even better in the future. It is equally important to find out who performs worse than average so that you can take measures towards rectifying it — by either doing something to improve the productivity of these team members or by dismissing them.
4. Better security
This is especially important for companies that have field employees. If the employer tracks their movements, it immediately becomes obvious if something happens to them. For example, if an employee is supposed to move along a specific route but turns out to be moving in a different direction, it may be a sign that something is wrong and it is necessary to take measures.
5. Better results of delegation
No two employees are equal and identical in their strengths and weaknesses. One may be better at a particular type of tasks while doing more poorly at another type of work. By monitoring their activity, an employer knows who is better and worse at various specific tasks and can strategically plan who should be assigned to every particular task. In the long run, it allows one to use the strengths of the team to maximum advantage while avoiding potential pitfalls.
1. Poor employee morale
When people know their every action is being monitored, they quite naturally become upset. They feel distrust on the part of the employer, which can significantly harm productive relations between managers and their subordinates. In the long run, it creates feelings of resentment and has an effect that is opposite to the intended one: instead of motivating employees to work better it eliminates their motivation – after all, it is hard to be inspired when working for somebody who is suspicious of you.
2. Legality issues
Usually, courts agree with the employer — as the company basically buys their time from its employees, it has a legitimate right to know how they use this time. However, this doesn’t mean that they are going to share the employer’s position in each and every situation, so it pays to be careful and not to overstep the boundaries. Potential problems with lawsuits can far outweigh all the benefits received from a little bit of additional info on the employees.
3. Higher stress levels
In addition to the perceived suspicion on the part of the employer, working under constant scrutiny is just plain stressful. When employees know that their every action is recorded, they will, of course, be more careful about what they allow themselves to do at the workplace, but at the same time, it makes them nervous and more afraid of making mistakes. Accumulated stress, in turn, makes them less productive in the long run.
4. Creativity issues
Some arguments are claiming that IT employee monitoring stifles their creativity because they are too worried about correctly following all the prescribed company procedures (knowing that it will immediately become known if they don’t do so).
5. Increased turnover
Constant stress, distrust, and strained relations between employees and their managers unavoidably lead to higher turnover rates. An employee suffering from all this is less likely to feel attached to the company and is more likely to look for another position elsewhere, especially if it will offer him better privacy.
IT employee monitoring: Embrace the advantages, avoid the drawbacks
All in all, IT employee monitoring has both significant potential advantages and drawbacks. Of course, both depend on the degree of its invasiveness and the industry the company works in — and one shouldn’t forget that a cleverly designed system can satisfy both employers and employees. Whether to implement IT employee monitoring and how to do it wholly depends on how the company in question evaluates the balance between the good and the bad.
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