Should you be monitoring your employees more closely?
Engagement 4 minute read

Should you be monitoring your employees more closely?

Megan Orr | August 18, 2022

Monitoring employees can be an important part of ensuring productivity and quality work. However, it’s a fine line between harmless monitoring to support employees and potential breaches of privacy and trust. Learn about employee monitoring and whether it’s worth it for your organization.

Do you trust your employees to do the work they’re assigned to do, and to do it in a timely and efficient manner? Do your employees trust you to not unfairly monitor them using arbitrary data or observations?

According to research “52% of employees believe that mishandling of data damages trust—and only 30% of the C-suite executives who were polled reported themselves as ‘confident’ that the data would always be used responsibly”. Additionally, employees subjected “to new levels of surveillance report being both ‘incredibly stressed out’ by the constant monitoring and also afraid to speak up, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, both of which—ironically—decrease productivity”.

Transparency is one of the biggest issues surrounding monitoring employees. A study found that “only 30% of employees were comfortable with their employer monitoring their email. But in the same study, when an employer shared that they would be monitoring and explained why, more than 50% of workers reported being comfortable with it.”

With transparency in mind, the Ontario government recently announced new legislation around monitoring employees in the workplace. The legislation focuses specifically on electronic monitoring and requires employers with 25 or more employees “to have in place a written policy on the electronic monitoring of employees”. 

According to Canadian HR Reporter, employers who are monitoring their employees must provide a written copy of the policy to all employees and the policy must include:

  • A description of why and how the employer may electronically monitor employees
  • How any information obtained through monitoring employees may be used by the employer
  • The date the policy was first prepared and the date of any amendments

Some examples of electronic monitoring can include things like GPS tracking employees’ location, biometric timekeeping, video surveillance, or software to monitor employees’ internet habits. 

Monitoring employees is a balancing act of rewarding those who are productive and offering support for those who are struggling.

It’s a fine line, especially with remote work becoming increasingly popular. You want to be able to monitor your employees’ productivity and ensure they’re using equipment and their time—or rather, the company’s time—appropriately, but you also don’t want to risk breaching their privacy and trust.

The Harvard Business Review writes that it’s important to “focus on creative solutions, not threats” and that organizations should emphasize improvement rather than punishment. 

Monitoring employees might not be a part of your performance strategy at all. 

There are many other ways that you can monitor employee performance and productivity without actually monitoring your employees. Here are some ideas:

  • Start by creating very clear expectations. If you’re not communicating clearly the measurements of success for an employee’s role and responsibilities, then you’re setting them up for failure. 
  • Check in with employees regularly. Managers and employees should regularly touch base—both formally and informally—to discuss the day-to-day, how different tasks and projects are going, and overall feelings of engagement with work. 
  • Complete regular performance reviews. Doing so will allow managers to get a sense of how employees view their own performance, as well as provide employees with feedback. From there, they can create goals and objectives to be touched on at the next performance review. 
  • If an employee is struggling, give them resources to improve. Consider creating a performance improvement plan or PIP that outlines the ways an employee needs to improve, with specific metrics and dates. 

Ultimately, when deciding the specifics and logistics of monitoring employees, employers should consider not just how they do it, but why—and if there are more suitable alternatives to improve performance and engage employees. 

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