Expert Roundup – Employee Monitoring

Employee monitoring has a stigma that business owners are really apprehensive about. It’s widely considered spying, and has connections to a perception of loss of privacy. But is this perception accurate?

Can Employee Monitoring be a Positive?

Companies implement monitoring software for a variety of reasons. Slow networks, recurring viruses, and distracted employees are just a few of the reasons we’ve encountered here at Stewart & Son.

Not long ago, one of our clients came to us about an employee who had been with them for over 15 years.  This was a valued team member who could be trusted with any project, but the client had some concerns. Projects were taking longer to complete, errors were piling up, and the rest of the staff were complaining about the employee’s social media use. Of course, the employee argued that nothing was wrong.

What is an employer to do? This seems like the perfect situation for employee monitoring, but how do you get past the negative implications?

To take a deeper look at the issues around employee monitoring, we went to the experts in this field for their opinions. We asked, “in what ways would you counter the stigma and turn the concept into a positive for both the employer and employee?” Here’s what they said.

Isaac Kohen

Teramind | Twitter

“Employee monitoring can be a great benefit for both employer and the employee. Data security is an ongoing battle, and I only expect the exploitation of data to become worse. The phrase: “Data is king” is very accurate, and because of its value, data theft and ransom has become a high-earning industry.

Honesty, transparency and education, I believe will help counter this stigma.

One of the ways data is easily exploited is through “insiders” that includes your third-party contractors, managers and anyone with access to your sensitive data. One phishing email could bring down the entire company’s cyber defenses, leaving you vulnerable. The threat is clear, and user analytics / monitoring is one of the progressive approaches to keeping sensitive data safe.

Employees can be your greatest ally in the battle against insider threats and data loss. One of the tools of success is employee monitoring.

To navigate this “spying” and “big brother” stigma, I encourage managers to be honest, transparent and informative about the uses of employee monitoring. Employees need to be educated on why the software is being used, and how it is being used. Be honest, be straightforward. Educate them on the current threat landscape and help them realize why the extra layer of data protection is important.

Lastly, set limits. Employee monitoring can be very specific, such as recording only 5 minutes before and after a rule violation, monitoring can be disabled for certain criteria, or record only if the user is accessing a company website.

Honesty, transparency and education, I believe will help counter this stigma.”

Isaac is the CEO of Teramind, a software organization taking a user-centric security approach to monitor employee behavior. Teramind software streamlines employee data collection in order to identify suspicious activity, detect possible threats, monitor employee efficiency, and ensure industry compliance.

Ramiz Khan

ActivTrak | Twitter

“We see some things that help to explain why this stigma exists, and how we see it as being a fear of the past. There are two definitions of Employee Monitoring, one from the ‘90s where you essentially use the software as a firewall with history to see who is accessing what website, and whether or not they’re conducting work activities during working hours. In 2018, we already know this information – everyone does some non-work activities at the office, and if it’s egregious, it will generally show in the employee’s output.

At ActivTrak, we prefer the second definition of Employee Monitoring, which is a little bit like Google Analytics, but for the office. This definition fulfills two key areas of concern that have nothing to do with the stigma of spying and loss of privacy — organizational security and efficiency.

At ActivTrak, we prefer the second definition of Employee Monitoring, which is a little bit like Google Analytics, but for the office.

We’re noticing that more mature businesses now use Employee Monitoring Softwares as more affordable alternatives for user behavior analytics and workflow management solutions. What I mean by that is more and more of our clients are using ActivTrak to make their businesses more profitable by optimizing inefficient workflows as they scale — a job typically performed by workflow management solutions–  and the flexibility, detailed alerting, and wide range of integrations available within products like ours can easily be configured to perform tasks typically reserved for heavy-duty user behavior analytics platforms.

ActivTrak actually employs features that are specifically designed to keep the privacy of those being monitored intact. For instance, we have implemented scheduled reporting, where admins can set schedules for their employees, we have a feature where users can actually be granted access to view their own data, and we’ve added our DLP feature that automatically redacts sensitive information from screenshots before anyone has a chance to see it. We’ve also made the conscious decision not to employ a key logging feature in our product, because they often capture personal passwords, which are of no value to a business, and grossly invade users’ privacy.

All in all, we believe our platform is more tailored to give you an overall understanding of your organization’s efficiency and alert admins of suspicious behavior, or access to sensitive information, rather than spying. ”

Ramiz is the Marketing Director at ActivTrak, a business development tool that provides user behavior analytics for organizations of all sizes. You can read more of his posts about remote work and productivity over on their blog.

Michael Goldberg

InterGuard | Twitter

“We gave a lot of thought to transparency when we were developing InterGuard.

We offer both investigative monitoring and transparent monitoring, so it can be completely hidden from the employee or not. With transparent monitoring, a notice is visible when they log in, notifying them about compliance and acceptable use.

…you should use employee monitoring software first and foremost for productivity, and investigation should come second..

One thing we have identified over the course of years is that you can increase employee productivity simply by letting them know that they are being monitored. This raises awareness, and they stay on task to do what they were hired for. When you increase productivity, you increase bottom line and profits over all. A busy day is a productive day.

When everyone is on the same page, employee monitoring can be a great team building tool. You can focus on a productivity goal to improve profits, which leads to raises and a happier environment.

For the best outcomes, you should use employee monitoring software first and foremost for productivity, and investigation should come second.”

Michael  is the  head  of sales and marketing for InterGuard, which is Awareness Technologies’ corporate line of products. Michael has been a major driver in the employee monitoring space since 2002 and is well versed in endpoint security and has managed sales, marketing and technical support teams for more than 15 years. You can read more about the pros and cons of employee monitoring on the InterGuard blog.

Conclusion

Like any tool, employee monitoring software is really about how you use it. Ideally, you want to use it to strengthen your team and increase productivity, not penalize your employees.

“…don’t take any tracking system as a tool of punishment, since it just helps an employer to get insight into routine workflow and the outcomes can be both positive and negative.” Work Examiner

So how did the story end for our client?

We installed a tracking system, which avoided providing information about exactly what the employee was doing. Instead, it categorized activities as “productive” or “unproductive”. In a few days we had our first report – over 70%  of the employee’s time was unproductive!

Our client decided to use this information as a guide to counsel, not criticize. After 6 weeks, the employee had changed course successfully, and was 90% productive. The employer kept a key employee,  and now has a system of using productivity metrics to measure performance and counsel team members BEFORE it reaches a crisis point.

Have you used employee monitoring in your business? If not, would you consider it? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

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