Katya Linossi, CEO, ClearPeople
Revenue, profits, expenses and salaries – these are all figures businesses can track and predict. But one thing which is notoriously difficult to keep tabs on is that of employee productivity.
Whatever the industry, businesses across the globe struggle to understand which employees are working to the best of their ability and which ones need some help – an issue which has been compounded by the new flexible working model organisations have been forced to adopt this year.
One tactic some businesses have implemented is the implementation and use of workplace surveillance technology. While the tech has been around for years – historically being used to prevent fraud and protect trade secrets – since the first UK lockdown in March this year, it has been used extensively to monitor employee activity, and track productivity and efficiency.
The challenge of COVID-19
For many organisations in the UK, flexible working was already part of their culture before the global pandemic. Yet, with most staff now operating completely remotely, COVID-19 has left HR teams and managers facing many new challenges, specifically given activities are now much harder to monitor. This has led to concerns around how hard employees are working and whether or not they’re engaged within their contracted hours. With the ability to check in on teams face-to-face and monitor them in person having been removed, some managers are resorting to other tactics.
Specifically, for a lot of organisations, this is the use of surveillance software. While there are some uses to this, including increased security, being able to understand employee behaviour and anonymised insight for managers – allowing them to identify resourcing or training challenges ahead of time – the cons outweigh these.
In fact, the use of surveillance software has been widely debated across the globe. In the US, for example, the software has been named ‘spyware’ as businesses have adopted it without the knowledge of their employees. Whether it’s tracking the hours a specific user spends on certain sites or programmes, or their ‘idle time’, it’s clear some employers think this is a positive step in the new working culture we’re adopting. In Europe surveillance of this kind is less prolific given the increased regulations for employee rights.
The issue with monitoring software is arguably less regulatory, and more instead about the changes it makes to the working dynamic.
This method of measuring productivity actively creates a company culture of distrust, demotivation and sends a message that employee commitment is questionable. Not only will employees feel unsupported by their employers, but personal privacy also becomes threatened. Ultimately, the monitoring of employees requires a very careful balancing act between an employer’s interests and its employees’ right to data protection and clear communication on its use and the subsequent availability of data is essential.
Promoting a culture of trust
Employee tracking software may be seen to be a simple solution however, the cons far outweigh the pros. Instead of looking at this quick fix technology, the focus should be placed on a solution which benefits employees and, in return, positions the company well for future growth.
Rather than monitoring employees, organisations should use technology which promotes transparency, empowerment and inclusion, thus driving employee productivity. This technology spend is the key to effectively managing remote teams and ensuring an honest culture of communication and collaboration.
Practical ways in which this can be done is by managers focusing on results over how busy employees seem to be. This means trusting workers and giving them ownership of their work. To help, managers must help workers prioritise tasks as well as provide technology and tools to support them.
Also, when onboarding a new staff member, instead of walking them around the office which isn’t possible, managers will need to ensure all the knowledge and information they need is available remotely and that all staff have the resources they need to complete required tasks. Companies will also need to enhance their onboarding experience to make this more engaging and interactive. This could include ideas like fun digital events, using an ice-breaker bot to randomly pair people together, or assigning a peer mentor.
This is where a digital workspace becomes useful.
A digital workspace not only enhances collaboration between colleagues by connecting them, but it also aligns them with company goals, enables easy access to data, breaks down data silos and also barriers to knowledge. Using this technology above spyware will increase employee communication and collaboration, helping improve productivity, accountability, loyalty and trust.
While most companies in the UK have adapted well to the challenges thrown their way by the pandemic, as we are now in a second national lockdown, this trend needs to continue. To do so, firms need to tread carefully, avoid monitoring software, create a culture of trust within their organisation and look at other technology solutions to increase worker productivity and collaboration.