By Isaac Kohen, VP of R&D at Teramind, provider of employee monitoring, insider threat detection and data loss prevention solutions.
Last year, Gartner estimated that 80% of companies would implement some form of employee-monitoring software, a noteworthy 50% increase in five years. I’m a vice president at an employee-monitoring provider, and the surge in software sales reflects a growing desire for companies of all sizes to achieve oversight in an increasingly digital environment.
Of course, the recent pandemic has changed this calculation considerably as companies embrace a hybrid workforce comprised of on-site, remote and distributed teams, making the desire for employee monitoring even more ubiquitous.
Many managers and executives are clamoring for data-driven insights while striving to provide accountability to newly remote teams. Unsurprisingly, this transition is causing some tension between companies and their employees. Many workers (and the tech journalists who cover their plight) identify a “creepy” factor that can accompany invasive or off-putting levels of oversight.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Leaders can implement employee-monitoring software with confidence, knowing that there are valuable reasons for its application. At the same time, embracing best practices helps ensure that it doesn’t undermine other priorities. Here’s how.
Know Your Why
Undoubtedly, many companies embraced employee monitoring without a clear vision for use cases and impact. As a result, they collect droves of data that still leave them uninformed and unable to enact meaningful change in exchange for their efforts. Knowing your purpose for monitoring will make the process more impactful.
In a hybrid work environment, employee monitoring efforts serve two critical purposes.
First, it’s a cybersecurity solution that provides real-time protection against accidental and malicious insider threats.
Often, a company’s own employees are its most significant cybersecurity threat. For instance, in 2019, 70% of cybersecurity professionals reported accidental internal breaches at their organizations. These threats are amplified in a hybrid work environment where increasingly blurry lines between personal and professional technology, isolated employees and unsecured internet connections all threaten data security.
Meanwhile, malicious insiders are on the rise, and these bad actors target company and customer data, intellectual property and other valuable materials. That’s why, according to Deloitte, “there is value in proactively refining current approaches to better protect critical assets in the face of emerging threats.” Employee-monitoring software, coupled with endpoint data loss protection capabilities, reduces the risk of a data breach.
What’s more, employee-monitoring software can support productivity initiatives by providing managers and employees with critical insights, helping them identify bottlenecks, maximize opportunity and mitigate distractions.
For example, Microsoft analyzed data from its employee-monitoring efforts to determine best practices for meeting schedules and collaborative initiatives, reducing burnout and lost efficiency at a critical time.
Successful Monitoring Must-Haves
Simply put, employee monitoring can play an important role when managing hybrid teams, which makes its rollout an important next step for achieving buy-in and results. Here are three priorities that matter most.
1. Limit monitoring.
Lamenting the scope of many monitoring initiatives, The Washington Post reported that, in addition to software oversight, many companies are “mandating always-on webcam rules, scheduling thrice-daily check-ins and inundating workers with not-so-optional company happy hours, game nights and lunchtime chats.”
It’s evident that the quest to provide oversight and accountability can quickly become overwhelming to employees, undermining workplace culture at a time when many employees already feel stressed and burned out. Rather than monitoring every moment of the workday, select the most important business elements, and develop appropriate oversight protocols for those things.
2. Focus on outcomes.
While companies can easily collect and analyze everything from mouse movements to website activity, these are, at best, false signs of meaningful activity. Instead, pursue an outcomes-based approach to monitoring by setting clear expectations for tangible outcomes. In doing so, leaders empower employees to focus on what matters most for their businesses while providing maximum flexibility and trust.
3. Communicate again and again.
It’s understandably tempting to make employee monitoring a secret initiative. While you may learn something about your employees’ hidden oversight efforts, this won’t build healthy teams or thriving companies.
Instead, communicate your purpose and process for monitoring, making it unquestionably clear that you are pursuing this priority with intentionality and rigor.
Employee-monitoring software doesn’t have to be weird, creepy or drastic. Instead, it’s an incredibly capable software category that can deliver meaningful returns when implemented with purpose and excellence.
For many organizations, getting this element right will be a central pillar to a long-term transition to a hybrid work environment.