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What is Employee Monitoring in 2023? Its Essence and Basic Principles

What is Employee Monitoring in 2023? Its Essence and Basic Principles

In this article, we are going to provide an overview of what employee monitoring is, explain why it is essential for businesses and describe some of the different features and benefits of employee monitoring software.

Monitoring employee PC activity has always been a fairly tricky subject. On the one hand, you want to stay on top of things and be certain that everybody at work is actually focused on their tasks. On the other hand, excessive monitoring has its downsides, moreover, we can't forget about people's right to privacy.

So let's dive into what employee monitoring is, how it should be implemented, what its pitfalls are, and how to set up effective employee monitoring from a technical point of view.

Definition of Employee Monitoring

When we talk about employee monitoring, we usually mean tracking activity of your specialists at their PCs. For this purpose, designated software is installed on every work computer that will be monitored, which records the user's activity, allows managers to view the screens, etc. Advanced solutions also generate detailed analytical reports based on the collected data that are useful for monitoring the situation inside the company and making critical managerial decisions.

Companies to turn to employee monitoring practices in order to improve their overall productivity as well as to protect corporate data and resources. 

Sometimes employee monitoring can refer to monitoring methods that are not directly related to the work PCs, such as:

  • access control system (ACS) that tracks the movement of employees on the premises;
  • video surveillance (CCTV):
  • audio recording using microphones in the offices;
  • GPS monitoring of employee location, and so on.

As these methods are not directly related to the office workflow, in this article we will focus on monitoring the activities of employees at their computers.

Among the most widely used employee PC monitoring methods, the following can be highlighted:

  • employee screen video recording;
  • time tracking;
  • keystroke logging;
  • productivity reporting;
  • GPS location tracking;
  • Internet monitoring (including web and app monitoring, instant messaging surveillance), etc.

This is where software designed specifically to record employee activity at their PCs come into play. A good example of advanced employee monitoring software is Kickidler. It's a comprehensive solution that offers all essential features for tracking your employees, such as monitoring their activity in different apps and on different sites, providing video monitoring, automatically generating regular reports, etc.

Benefits of Employee Monitoring

Here are the main benefits you get from using monitoring software:

  • Increased employee productivity. There's no way to put it any other way: people tend to procrastinate. They get distracted by social media, talking to their co-workers, and dozens of other fun activities. It is obvious that you want your employees to remain focused on their work-related tasks during their paid working hours, and monitoring is a great help in this regard. The software tracks periods when your team members are procrastinating and allows you to take necessary actions (even more, Kickidler's Autokick does it automatically by sending a notification to the employee himself). And while it's impossible to achieve 100% productivity, it's quite feasible to raise it above the average numbers.
  • Workflow transparency. In order to be able to plan the work processes in an efficient manner, you need to have an objective idea of the way they are carried out. You should know what your specialists are doing, how much time they spend on certain processes, how they approach their tasks, and so on. Employee monitoring software collects all this information and facilitates your analysis and planning.
  • Insider threat prevention. Insiders, fraudsters, disgruntled employees and plain hustlers who set out to leak client base – there's a multitude of ways your team members can hurt the company. By monitoring their activity at their computers, you'll be able to detect such threats and neutralize them.

In addition, monitoring employee activity with the help of dedicated software is almost invisible to the specialists themselves. It's a very important advantage, and we will discuss it in more detail a bit later, when we'll cover micromanagement.

Pitfalls of Employee Monitoring

With all the benefits employee monitoring has to offer, there are two important subtleties that you ought to keep in mind. Those are the legal and psychological aspects of the matter.

Legal Aspect of Implementing Employee Monitoring Software

Before you set up any employee monitoring software, be sure to thoroughly research your state or federal laws. Confirm that you are not gaining access to any personal information of your employees. Here are some other things we recommend that you do prior to implementing any kind of employee monitoring solution:

  1. Inform your employees that personal use of work computers is prohibited (e.g., no checking personal social media accounts). Issue an appropriate policy.
  2. Obtain written consent from your staff to collect data on their work at the computers (if the law requires it).

Please note that we recommend deploying the software transparently in any case, and notifying all company personnel that you will be monitoring their performance. More on this below, in the corresponding section on how to properly implement the software for monitoring employees.

Psychological Aspect of Using Employee Monitoring Software 

When the issue of ethical considerations for employee monitoring arises, the consensus is that people most often are not enthusiastic about the idea of such an approach. As a rule, there are three main concerns employees have when they’re being told that monitoring practices will be implemented within the company:

  1. Employees worry that the employer will invade their privacy and the confidentiality of their personal data. Solution: warn everyone in advance that there should be absolutely no personal information on their work PCs and make sure it's done this way in practice.
  2. People perceive the very idea of monitoring as an insult, and they might become convinced that their employer doesn't trust them. Solution: explain the purpose, objectives and benefits of such monitoring. It entails automatic collection of important statistics, fair distribution of bonuses based on objective data, opportunities to find points of growth for the company more easily as well as to improve working conditions, etc. Focus on being constructive and positive.
  3. Specialists feel uneasy when they are being monitored, experience constant stress and pressure, their performance begins to deteriorate. Solution: make monitoring as discreet, unobtrusive and convenient as possible. Demonstrate in practice that all these changes are actually beneficial. For example, use the solution (at least at first) primarily for incentives for outstanding employees and process optimization, rather than for penalties and reprimands.

Mistakes Managers Make When Monitoring Employees

There are three main ways employee monitoring software can be used to the company's detriment:

  1. Deceiving people and monitoring them covertly

Covert installation of monitoring software invariably leads to a number of problems:

  • You may unexpectedly gain access to an employee's confidential information, such as medical and financial data, which could lead to a multitude of legal problems.
  • When such monitoring gets discovered by employees (which it almost always does), they will feel insulted and won't feel safe in the workplace anymore. Most of them might quit or start to underperform.
  • Covert monitoring makes it quite difficult to use the results obtained during such monitoring, since you'll have to be careful not to disclose the very fact of the monitoring.

Besides, practice shows that announcing the start of monitoring itself improves employee performance, seeing how people start to try harder and put more effort into their work.

We strongly recommend that you install employee monitoring software openly. Explain clearly and thoroughly what data you'll monitor, why you'll be doing it and how it will be done. An exception to this might be if you suspect that there is already an insider within your company, but in that case covert monitoring should be targeted and short-term.

  1. Getting carried away with micromanagement

Employee monitoring software is the perfect tool for a hot-headed boss who wants to know every little detail about every single thing going on in their company, and no one likes a boss like that. It's great to stay on top of things, but if you react to every little trivial thing that happens in your team, your employees’ stress levels will rapidly increase.

Try to structure monitoring so that you use its results only for strategic analysis and business transformation. At the operational level, it makes sense to intervene only in critical situations: for example, right when an employee is trying to leak your client base. Otherwise, we advise you not to focus on specific activities of your employees, but to assess the situation as a whole.

  1. Putting too much pressure on the employees

The main fear of employees when monitoring software is introduced is that it will become more difficult overall for them to do their jobs. People might be worried that you're going to:

  • start using their smallest missteps as reasons to reduce bonuses or impose fines;
  • push them into work hell, where they won't have a free second to even breathe.

Be sure to put these fears to rest. Your people are not robots. They will never be able to perform at their maximum productivity for the entire 8-hour working day; it's simply not feasible. Proceed gently: determine the current average productivity for each role and then gradually encourage your employees to improve these figures. Even a one percent increase in productivity over some time span is a significant amount. In addition, if you push too hard, people will burn out and quit, which will inevitably do more harm than good.

Essential Features of Employee Monitoring Software

Functionality of employee monitoring tools largely depends on the nature of your business, as well as on the specific goals and objectives set for the monitoring. Generally speaking, you can focus on the following features:

  1. Monitoring employee activity: when they begin working at the computer, when they stop, when they take breaks, and at what time they use what application.
  2. Monitoring web activity: which sites they open, how much time they spend using them, what they do there.
  3. Analytics: displaying all the gathered data in a convenient format for analysis, allowing supervisors to review a selection for any time period and for any group of employees or even for individual specialists.
  4. Logging keystrokes and recording mouse movements.
  5. Screen video recording and synchronization of such videos with the activity report (e.g., by clicking on the "Work in Microsoft Word" entry, the corresponding fragment of the video is displayed).
  6. Automatic notifications on procrastination or violation of company rules (e.g., trying to access the database).

Visual monitoring, which is essentially the ability to see firsthand what's happening on your employees’ computers, is vital. If you focus solely on static reports without any visual backing, those specialists who are particularly progressive and enthusiastic may try to cheat the software (for example, by opening a text editor and jamming the keys on their keyboards). Video recording or live broadcasting of employees' screens safeguards against such situations.

Implementing Employee Monitoring Software the Correct Way

Here are the main steps we recommend that you follow (along with checking our in-depth article on the matter):

  1. Define your goals and objectives. What do you want to achieve by monitoring your employees' performance? Get rid of procrastinators, analyze current processes and find areas for their improvement, protect data from leaks – the more detailed your list of tasks is, the better.
  2. Choose the software that meets all your needs. Consult its suppliers if necessary.
  3. Check the legal side of the matter, prepare the necessary employee agreements and company orders.
  4. Tell people that you are implementing a monitoring solution. Describe in detail the goals and objectives you are pursuing. Try to focus on the advantages for everybody, such as objective evaluation of each specialist's contribution to the work processes, functionality for self-monitoring, less attention from the management (everything can be seen in the reports), and identification of points of growth. There will also be less bureaucratic routine: for example, there will be no need to fill out reports on working time, since everything is visible anyway.
  5. Finalize the necessary legal agreements with your employees, get people acquainted with the new executive orders against their signature. Instruct them on the rules of PC use (such as not keeping confidential information on the work PCs and not using them for personal purposes).
  6. Install monitoring software, set it up.
  7. During the first weeks, simply collect information, with no reaction to anything unless the situation is critical. Let people get used to the monitoring and see for themselves that nothing has changed for the worse. During this period, you can emphasize the importance of using self-monitoring functionality and motivate your employees to improve their performance in productivity reports. Gamification approach and the use of competitive excitement tend to work rather well.

Then gradually start making changes. Talk to your employees about ways they can improve their performance. Optimize work processes. Focus on the constructive aspect rather than the negative one: let the employee monitoring software become a handy tool for business development rather than a tool for punishment.

Pros and Cons of Implementing Employee Monitoring Software

Obviously, pros of having employee monitoring software in your company overweigh any potential cons. We made a deep dive into this topic here, so check it out if you want to learn more details and see an overview of the main reasons you should definitely use employee monitoring tools.

To summarize, employee monitoring software increases the manager’s efficiency since they get a comprehensive overview of all the actions of the specialists at work. It is also beneficial in terms of improving employee productivity and ensuring supervisors stay unbiased.  Employee monitoring solutions are a tremendous help with monitoring remote employees and providing risk insurance.

At the same time, some possible cons of implementing employee monitoring tools are also worth mentioning. These drawbacks include employees’ overall aversion to the monitoring in general and possible risk of gaining access to people’s personal data. However, we’ve covered both these points in this article, when we gave you tips on how to implement employee monitoring software the right way.

Prospects of Employee Monitoring Industry

Today, advanced employee monitoring software already collects as much extensive information about employee activity as possible. For example, Kickidler quite literally can record their every activity - and every period of inactivity - in full detail, with keystroke logging, screen video recording, and online broadcasting of any number of screens.

Therefore, it would be reasonable to argue that the future development of employee activity monitoring includes the development of its analytical features. Even now, with Kickidler you can get not only raw data but also comprehensive reports on all the key indicators:

  • employee activity;
  • timesheets;
  • employee productivity (and its changes over time);
  • violations;
  • applications used and sites accessed by employees;
  • employee ratings, etc.

Eventually, particularly in light of neural networks' development, we can expect the addition of even more complex and sophisticated analytics. For example, in the coming years there may well appear monitoring of employees' mood: a new type of software for tracking the level of happiness and company loyalty on the basis of the collected data about the employees' activity.

In any event, automatic employee monitoring is already the gold standard of competent management. You can't physically stand over each employee's shoulder, but you can do it virtually, with the help of Kickidler or another employee monitoring tool. Moreover, this virtual presence of yours will be constant, unnoticeable and effective; the software collects all important data without leaving anything out.

So if you're not already using employee monitoring software in your company, it's a good time to start!

Kickidler Employee Monitoring Software

Louise Lowe

Content Marketer

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