Today we've decided to touch upon an age-old question. What's considered more effective – monitoring employee productivity via reports or monitoring your team in a visual manner? While we believe both of these approaches to be useful, it’s hard to deny that insights gained from bare report reviewing sometimes might not suffice. At the same time, visual monitoring – using tools such as employee screen video recording, keystroke logging, email & USB monitoring, etc. – deserves a bit more attention than it gets; such employee oversight, believe it or not, has the ability to provide managers with even more valuable insights into the intricacies of their employees’ behavior.
While the bad news is that managers can’t physically shadow every single one of their employees, the good news is that they don’t actually need to. Let’s dive deeper into the topic of visual monitoring and figure out exactly what it is, why it’s more effective than evaluating employees based solely on reports as well as how best to keep an eye on your employees in 2022.
What is visual monitoring?
Let’s start by defining the terms. The way we interpret it, visual monitoring is direct observation of employees’ actions, as if you were looking at their monitor or watching them pressing keys on a keyboard. At the moment, most common visual monitoring tools include:
- Screen video recording. Kickidler employee monitoring software records the entire history of employees’ actions at the computer that clearly demonstrates what exactly they were doing at any given moment of the workday. The recording is carried out stealthily and the employee doesn’t notice it, so it’s essentially impossible to trick the software. If your subordinates get distracted from their work or try to outsmart the monitoring solution in any way, you’ll notice it. When reviewing their history, you can sort it by certain time periods or activity in specific applications – and that’ll greatly save you time.
- Online monitoring. Kickidler employee monitoring software provides a real-time overview of employees’ monitors and shows what apps are being used at any given moment of the working day. For the supervisor’s convenience, screens of employees who are committing any type of violation get highlighted in red. If you’re already suspecting some employees of any misconduct, you can easily supervise them online from the comfort of your own desk.
Additionally, visual monitoring can incorporate keylogger, which records keystrokes pressed on the keyboard, i.e. keystroke logging.
All other monitoring tools – productivity reports, metrics, activity graphs, etc. – are considered part of non-visual monitoring. That is, they only allow you to look at performance statistics, while visual monitoring actually allows you to observe the work process itself.
Reasons to incorporate visual monitoring
Reason 1. Its mere presence disciplines employees
Our experience tells us that the mere knowledge that the software takes screenshots of every action employees carry out at their PCs is enough to keep people focused on their work and discourage them from trying to deceive their supervisors. A whole other issue is that the idea of such monitoring might be perceived negatively by some of your team members – we’ve covered the topic of how to deal with such situations in our article on ethical employee monitoring, and we’ll talk a bit more about it further on.
Reason 2. It is impossible to cheat
Kickidler reports – as well as those provided by similar monitoring solutions – offer an extremely accurate representation of your employees’ computer activity. If they’re working diligently, the reports will show a realistic image of what’s happening in the company. On the other hand, discrepancies begin where employees’ integrity ends.
People who choose to procrastinate at the workplace might try to cheat employee monitoring software. For example, one of our clients decided to hire customer support specialists who were based in India and then monitored their performance using the reports generated by the time tracking software he was using at that moment. And while everything looked good on paper, clients were becoming increasingly more vocal with their complaints about the time it took to get a response from customer support. Having checked video recordings of these employees’ activity, our client discovered that instead of five employees he had only one guy who was craftily faking the activity of the other four!
That employee was using his work computer to connect to his colleague’s PC via TeamViewer. From that computer he then connected to the third one, and eventually, a chain of five workstations was formed. Each of these PCs had an opened TeamViewer app, which was marked as productive in the reports generated by the time tracking software. Like we said, everything looked good on paper, seemed like all five employees were busy working and the reports indicated nothing wrong, yet visual monitoring made it possible to reveal the whole scheme in seconds.
Here's another incident our client has shared with us. A software developer who worked from home appeared quite productive and was always one phone call away, but he consistently delivered very poor results. His deadlines frequently got pushed back, causing problems for the whole team, yet judging by all the reports, he seemed to be working really hard. Video recording of his screen revealed that he had indeed been working hard all day; the only problem was that he was working on other clients’ projects! Naturally, the freelancer was fired.
Reason 3. It reveals not only productivity, but also work efficiency
In most cases, if an employee is productive – if they’re actually busy tackling assigned tasks and don’t get distracted – then the results of their work will reflect that. However, that’s not always the case.
We have a story to tell you. One of our partners, the owner of a small logistics company, began to have doubts about his manager. She had proven herself to be an attentive and responsible employee, and, according to all the reports, she was almost the most productive specialist in the entire company, however, she left a lot to be desired in terms of her problem-solving speed. With such productivity, the manager was supposed to do almost twice as much as any other employee, but her results remained just below average.
We had to review some video footage of the employee’s workday activity and made an interesting observation. Indeed, she wasn’t distracted by anything and she was constantly working in apps that were considered productive. The thing was, she did all of that excruciatingly slowly. She would open an app and linger doing nothing for half a minute. She would spend several minutes just clicking on different tabs. She would write an email, send it and then waste five minutes mindlessly switching between different work-related apps. And she would carry on like that till the end of the workday. Indeed, her productivity seemed to be off the charts according to the reports, but in no way was she efficient.
Reason 4. It shows not only what the employee did, but also how he did it
Productivity monitoring isn’t limited to finding procrastinators and fraudsters. Observing the activity of your employees presents you with an opportunity to identify growth points.
A classic scenario that many of our clients have gone through is as follows. Let’s say there are two employees who are working on similar tasks. They both have approximately identical skills, both perform at similar productivity levels, and generally do well, yet one of them consistently closes 15-20% more tickets than the other. What seems to be the case?
Reports alone won’t help you figure this one out. In cases like these you need to take a closer look at the broad picture and analyze how certain employees are performing instead of what tasks they accomplish. A video recording of their workday will help you figure out the differences. For example, a more effective specialist could be actively using macros or hotkeys, while his colleague would be neglecting them. With a little training from the overachiever you’ll notice that your subordinate's efficiency will increase.
Reason 5. It saves logs of all actions of your employees
The situation we described in the previous paragraph may become considerably more complicated if the efficient employee we mentioned is no longer working for your company. During the course of their work, many specialists optimize their tasks, for example, by finding the most efficient algorithms for solving various issues, writing macros and learning to carry out multiple processes at once.
All of that sounds wonderful, except that as time goes by, an experienced employee may decide to quit. Sure, you’ll replace them with a specialist who has the same qualifications, but that specialist will inevitably be less efficient – while being just as productive. It can take several months until the newcomer finally gets the hang of it and streamlines his work processes on his own.
Kickidler makes it much easier for you – you can simply retrieve a video of how the employee who resigned used to structure his workday and see exactly where he would cut corners on certain tasks. This will greatly speed up the adaptation process for new specialists.
Reason 6. It helps identify insider threats
Finally, automatic reports generated by time tracking solutions won’t help you find malicious employees who are intentionally damaging your business.
A specialist could be incredibly productive and efficient – he could close all tickets on time, not get distracted by anything, react quickly to new tasks; overall, he could be a model employee according to every report. Here’s one small problem though – every few days this hero would leak the client database to your competitors.
At some point you’ll notice that someone is corrupt, but the only way to find that person would be to catch him in the act. That’s where video recordings of the workdays of every employee become immense help.
Pros and cons of visual monitoring
- Unbiased, comprehensive information
- Protection from malicious insiders
- Effective means of finding growth points
- Additional disciplinary factor
- Requires particular care during implementation
- Needs substantial time dedicated to it
Is visual monitoring ethical?
We should preface this by saying that we always advocate open, transparent monitoring. If you try to covertly monitor your employees, it will eventually be discovered, causing a great deal of negativity. That's why we recommend that you only resort to covert monitoring when you have a very strong reason for it – for instance, you suspect that one of your employees is leaking the company database to your competitors. If your goal is simply to optimize business processes and make your team more efficient, we encourage you to announce the decision to implement Kickidler and explain to your employees why you’re doing it. That way, all ethical requirements will be met.
Moreover, be sure to adhere to the principles of reasonable monitoring. You don’t need to track every move your subordinates make and freak out the moment they step away from their PC once a day. Keep in mind that no one can stay focused for eight hours straight, without any breaks. As long as your team productivity and performance remain within acceptable limits, everything is fine. It’s best to focus on finding growth points and optimizing workload rather than on tightening supervision over your team.
We suggest that you turn to direct supervision only when there are concrete suspicions regarding a certain employee. Occasionally, every week or two, you can also randomly check a few videos recorded by the software, just to make sure everything’s all right. That will be more than enough.