02/19/2021, 245 views
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Control for the Sake of Control Is No Good. How Best to Supervise Employees?

This article will tell you what employee control is, what issues it solves, what happens when you don’t control your employees, what the danger of micromanagement is, and what the seven principles of staff control are nowadays.

The main task of any manager can be easily summarized – the company has to operate as efficiently as possible. How does one achieve this goal? Easily – through working closely with the employees, since your business is all about the people involved in it. So let’s talk about the ways managers can supervise their employees. The first thing we need to address is this crucial question: 

Is employee control necessary in the first place?

These days, Agile, Scrum and other methods of work organization are in vogue, and we’re moving away from the traditional management hierarchy in favor of horizontally oriented systems. These approaches are great, but it’s their popularity that’s associated with one of the key mistakes of management today.

Agile Principle 11 – part of the Agile manifesto that reveals the core concept of the methodology – goes as follows: “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” It is this point that many managers who are just getting started with agile systems perceive as “there is no need to control the employees at all”. 

In reality, that’s obviously not the case. It’s essential for the teams to be self-organizing and for the team members to carry out self-monitoring. Therefore, the manager’s goal is to create opportunities for their employees to implement such self-monitoring seamlessly. In addition, shaping the motivation (Principle 5 of the same manifesto) and having close daily communication of developers with business people (Principle 4) can also be considered types of monitoring, albeit much less obvious.

Thus, it is a necessity to control your employees regardless of how flexible your approach is. And then, if the traditional approaches are more up your street, monitoring becomes your primary management tool.

What happens without employee control?

Frankly, nothing positive can come out of the situation like that. The potential consequences are as follows:

Employees will stop working

The most obvious and common result can be summed up in one idiom – when the cat’s away, the mice will play. The idea of “calorie storage” is ingrained in all of us – if a task can be ignored, we’re really tempted to put it off. And as soon as managers stop keeping track of the situation, things start to fall apart within the company: people start to procrastinate and lose motivation.

Sure, there are always highly motivated employees who work perfectly well without any external control. The problem is that they are not the entirety of your staff. A simple principle applies here – once you neglect employee monitoring, efficiency starts diminishing. 

You won’t notice people who aren’t performing at their best

Procrastination is the most prominent, though by no means the only problem that arises from the lack of employee monitoring. The second difficulty you’re sure to encounter is a weak understanding of your subordinates’ capabilities.

Let’s take a look at typical situations: 

  • You hired someone who did well in an interview. But once they took on actual assignments, it turned out they weren’t up to the task due to the lack of necessary skills;
  • You promoted a subordinate (or gave them a project that was more complex than usual), and they aren’t handling their new responsibilities well;
  • An employee has always been working well, but something happened in their life and the quality of their work along with their productivity has dropped.

When you don’t directly supervise your people, you’ll notice all of these problems only during the aftermath phase, be it a botched project, a flawed product, etc.

You won’t notice managers who are failing

The usual vertical of control goes like this: CEO – department heads – subordinates. In such vertical chain, top managers often know about regular employees only the things middle managers tell them in reports, office memos, etc. 

The problem in this case is obvious. The department head may: 

  • Conceal something intentionally, so that the performance of their department would look good on paper and they would receive a personal bonus;
  • Fire or cause resignation of employees that are beneficial for the company – with no objective reasons for such behavior;
  • Overlook something – due to mere negligence or a lack of leadership skills.

The ability to obtain information regarding all the employees not through a mediator, but with the help of a well-functioning system for employee monitoring will prevent the aforementioned problems.

How exactly does employee control solve these problems?

Properly organized employee monitoring includes:

  • Awareness. You will be fully informed about each of your employees. How well are they performing? Are they suitable for promotion or a supervisory position? Are they sabotaging the company (simply through being negligent and their overall procrastination or with malicious intent)?
  • Motivation. Monitoring ensures that successes of your employees don’t go unnoticed. By highlighting the achievements of your employees, you strengthen their loyalty to the organization and foster their desire to perform at their best;
  • Discipline. The mere knowledge that the manager is in touch with the dealings inside the company is a powerful incentive for the subordinates. Employees need to realize that the quality of their work directly affects the outcomes they will receive, be it a financial bonus or some kind of negative consequences;

However, it’s important to understand that only properly organized supervision provides all of these benefits.

5 mistakes managers make while supervising their employees

As effective as competent monitoring of subordinates is, improper monitoring is equally destructive for the company. The most common problems are the following:

Punitive supervision

It can also be described as “the stick without the carrot.” It’s typical in a situation when the supervisor focuses on the mistakes and shortcomings of their subordinates, completely disregarding their successes. Unfortunately, such a system of material incentives is established in many organizations: 

  • Did you come in late? A fine. Were you staying at work after the office hours? Good for you, you care about the future of the company (as a matter of fact, if your employees have to clock up overtime, it’s a very bad sign – most likely, you have troubles with task allocation and time management);
  • Did you fail to submit a project on time? No bonus for you. Did you make a proposal that saved the company a lot of money? Certificate of recognition;
  • Did you get distracted from work by a news site? Reprimand. Did you upgrade your skills in the spare time and overachieved your plan? We’ll just give you extra work to do.

And the list goes on. Such approach is very destructive, and it kills the motivation of your employees. The members of your team start to hate the company, they sabotage its success, and as soon as the opportunity arises, they quit.

Micromanagement

When a manager controls every step of their subordinates, no good comes out of it. An employee opened an entertainment site, and they immediately get a call from their supervisor asking them to look at some documents. Or they may be directly reprimanded, “What exactly were you busy with? Get back to work!”

Even if you apply micromanagement in a fair way by rewarding your people for their achievements, a life under constant surveillance is very tiring – we even conducted a corresponding experiment. Your employees won’t be able to relax, they will be robbed of the opportunity to restore their resource between work tasks (for example, over a cup of coffee), and, eventually, they’ll just burn out. Constant pressure doesn’t help anyone.

All of the things we mentioned above, however, don’t mean that you can’t keep track of your employees’ every step – you just need to make sure that they don’t notice such tracking. There’s no need to react to every action immediately, it’s enough to simply take into account the information you obtain when developing an overall strategy for the company’s future and personnel management.

Asymmetric control

Nobody likes a pet – and it’s even more infuriating to be the scapegoat. A manager should always remain objective and impartial, but the thing is, we’re all human. Without an external view of the situation, it’s very hard to eliminate personal sympathies and antipathies.

If you don’t address this issue, you’ll quickly discover that not all employees in your company are equal in the eyes of management. You gladly give certain employees bonuses and are ready to forgive them for minor errors; all the while you severely punish other employees for the same insignificant things.

Could such behavior be correct? It could. For example, in a situation when an employee who’s always slacking off and another who’s constantly showing good results make the same mistake, the consequences for such a slip-up might be different for them. However, you also need to have a clear understanding of the reasons for your decisions. Here you’ve forgiven the oversight for this specific reason and not because you simply like the person. And there you penalized not because you got sick of an employee’s behavior, but for these objective reasons.

Control for the sake of control

And the last mistake is perhaps the most crucial one. You should always remember the reason you’re doing all of this in the first place. Every executive’s action should be aimed at achieving the main goals:

  • Increasing the profitability of the company’s operations;
  • Increasing the attractiveness of the organization on the market;
  • Growing the business, etc.

You don’t aim to control people just because you can. When you act a certain way with an employee, when you supervise, encourage or reprimand them, it’s because you’re looking for a way to improve their performance and increase overall results. So before you do anything, be sure to stop for a second and think about the reasons. Why are you doing this? What will it do for the company?

Modern monitoring tools (like Kickidler) give you all the information you need to effectively manage your subordinates; all you have to do is use the data you receive wisely. Basically, you should follow the “do no harm” pillar.

7 principles of appropriate employee control

Drawing on the insights into what not to do, we can articulate the basic principles of effective employee monitoring.

Transparency

Each of your employees should know the following things:

  • The very fact that they’re being monitored;
  • The tools used to accomplish this task;
  • Key indicators (control points) for evaluating their performance;
  • The consequences that arise from supervision (bonuses/monetary sanctions).

In other words, you need clear regulations – policies for monitoring employees’ activities that specify every important aspect of monitoring. Pay the utmost attention to this document. You need to ensure that each employee fully understands their working conditions.

Predictability

This one is quite simple – follow the regulations. Once you’ve created a system of monitoring your employees, stick to it. It’ll help create a feeling of stability and safety, which is vital for work efficiency. Nothing irritates more than a self-righteous boss with a mind of their own. That’s why you define the rules of the game and follow them yourself. 

This doesn’t mean that the regulations can’t be amended or changed once in a while. Just try not to switch up the rules of the game too often. More emphasis should be placed on planning.

Objectivity

The rules need to be the same for everyone, one way or another. You have to maintain impartiality. That’s the only way to earn genuine respect from your subordinates. At the same time, keep in mind that a person is always biased, and that’s why we recommend using objective means of control, such as modules of automatic data collection regarding employees’ activity at their computers and analysis of the received information. The bigger part of monitoring you automate, the better the whole system will work.

Invisibility

Effective supervision is similar to air – it's everywhere, yet no one notices it. You’re supposed to be aware of your subordinates’ every move; however, you should intervene into the work processes either according to a pre-determined plan (e.g. at weekly briefings) or in absolutely emergency situations. 

Effectiveness

The data on employees alone don’t give you anything; you should work with the information you receive. Problem areas need to be pinpointed, and actions to resolve them need to be thought through. You should identify promising specialists and help them realize their potential. And the list goes on. Don’t limit yourself to a simple “let’s punish here and reward there” mentality; look at the bigger picture. That way you’ll get the most out of employee monitoring.

Consistency

Once you start supervising your employees, maintain such supervision at all times. Loosen the grip, and the whole system will collapse in no time. That’s why, coincidentally, the next item on our list is so important.

Efficiency

Employee monitoring is one of the main tasks of any manager, but it’s by no means the only one. You need to organize the supervision system in such a way that you get the maximum result with the minimum waste of time and effort. This leads us to the necessity to automate the monitoring and managing processes.

Automation of employee monitoring

All office employees nowadays work at their computers, which means that all you need to do is organize the data collection of the things they do at their PCs. Automated time-tracking systems – such as employee monitoring software Kickidler – help with this. This software:

  • Tracks all computer activity: 
    • Time of beginning and end of work;
    • Open applications;
    • Time spent in each application.
  • Automatically generates both company-wide and individual reports, analyzes employee productivity and generates the charts you need to work with the data;
  • Allows you to record video of an employee’s screen or connect to their computer remotely;
  • Keeps keystroke logs;
  • Provides employees with access to statistics so they can monitor themselves without the manager’s involvement, sends notifications and reminders.

All modules are customizable – you don’t want keylogger? Just turn it off. Et cetera.

The benefits of such solutions:

  • Kickidler collects comprehensive data on each employee and presents it to you in an easy-to-use format – all information is available to you in a single click;
  • Monitoring is one hundred percent objective – it’ll be easy for you to justify any of your decisions;
  • If you set it up correctly, you can create a system where employees control themselves with the help of Kickidler, and all that you’ll need to do is “to monitor the monitoring.”

Thus, such software saves a huge amount of time, helps you create a comprehensive and unbiased system of personnel monitoring – which is exactly what you need.

Why is hidden monitoring a bad thing?

We’ve touched on the idea that monitoring should be unobtrusive, but at the same time, it should be transparent. To put it another way, you should make sure you tell your employees that you are monitoring them – as well as explain to them what you are monitoring and how they are being monitored 

So why shouldn’t you set up hidden monitoring? Three main reasons to reconsider such an idea are:

  1. You’ve installed a keylogger; then your employee logged into their personal social media account from work computer and messaged someone. While they’ve violated work discipline, you’ve violated their right to privacy. Yes, if there’s a rule in your company that personal messengers are not allowed on corporate devices, legal problems can be avoided, however, the situation itself is extremely unpleasant. It demotivates employees and creates unnecessary conflicts and overall distrust inside the company;
  2. You’ve secretly gathered information, and then you rubbed your subordinates’ noses in it. It’ll come as a shock to them; it’ll be a stressful experience, and their loyalty will decline drastically – and you won’t even get the results you were hoping for (increase in work efficiency);
  3. You’ve secretly collected data and then did nothing with it – or, perhaps, you made some changes, but discreetly. Yes, it may work, but there’s always a risk that the secret will come out, and then all you have to do is look at the previous two points.

Spying on an employee can be appropriate if you suspect intentional sabotage – for example, if you think the employee is going to leak the base to a competitor and quit. Or if you’re 100% confident that no one will ever find out about the secret monitoring. All the same, we recommend adhering to a strategy of transparency and honesty; it’s much more effective.

Myths about employee control

Myth 1: Employee monitoring is against the law
It is not: in pretty much all the countries labor laws stipulate that the employer shall have the right to supervise the work duties of their employees. So everything is fine – as long as the employees are informed about the monitoring either by a special clause in their employment contracts or by a company directive.

Myth 2: Only problem employees should be monitored
By focusing on those who are not performing well, you are overlooking two things:

  1. Those who perform well should be rewarded. It’s just as important as imposing penalties on those who fail;
  2. You get full information regarding the company’s state of affairs only by observing the entire staff. That way it’ll be easier for you to find new ways to develop business processes.

So, partial supervision is a mistake - monitoring should be comprehensive.

Myth 3: Only management finds employee monitoring useful
Actually, a competently organized system of employee monitoring is beneficial for the employees themselves. They receive objective feedback, and a safe and transparent work environment where everyone feels more comfortable is created.

Myth 4: Employees react negatively to control
Our practice shows that people react negatively not to monitoring itself, but to its incorrect use. Excessive control, micromanagement, asymmetry – resentment is caused by the things we mentioned in the section on managerial mistakes. Avoid these missteps, and everything will be wonderful.

Myth 5: Monitoring employees is difficult
This used to be the case, but now managers no longer need to physically stand over the shoulder of each of their subordinates. Automated monitoring systems will take care of everything, while you’ll be left to make key decisions. When it comes to implementing employee monitoring software Kickidler, it’s even easier than it looks – the system can be up and running in just a couple of days.

Control your employees, and you’ll have the ability to effectively manage your company. As for us, we’ll help you implement such monitoring. Email us!

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02/19/2021, 245 views
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