It’s undeniable; employee productivity monitoring is on the rise, with employee productivity surveillance tech (EPST) quickly becoming commonplace for many organizations. Research reveals 83% of IT managers and 77% of IT workers’ current companies use some form of EPST. And, of those whose current company isn’t using employee surveillance technology, 79% believe their company is likely to start using it in the next three years.
With these numbers in mind, it’s important to understand how to most effectively track productivity without creating disharmony and distrust among employees—a very real concern when we consider that 84% of IT workers and 87% of IT managers have seen negative impacts since their company started using EPST. These negative impacts range from increased worker anxiety, declining loyalty or morale, and even difficulty in attracting new staff.
Transparency is essential, but lacking
If an organization is dead set on implementing EPST, it’s vital to do so the right way, with employee’s front of mind. To maximize the pros of this tech (cost savings, security, etc) and minimize the cons (eroded employee trust, decreased morale, decreased productivity, etc.), transparency is essential.
How and if companies disclose their use of EPST to employees influences the comfort level of the people involved, especially IT. Nearly all IT managers (95%) and 89% of IT workers say transparency would increase their comfort with their company using EPST. Despite this, we see a notable gap arise regarding disclosure in action. Of IT managers whose current company uses EPST, nearly half (48%) say employees either weren’t informed that the technology is being used at all or were told it’s being used but not how surveillance is conducted.
Why might a company not be transparent?
There are several reasons a company might not be transparent with its employees about using productivity monitoring software:
- Fear of backlash: The company may be concerned that employees will push back against using tracking software, seeing it as intrusive and an invasion of privacy. They may fear that this backlash could lead to decreased employee morale or even legal action. Furthermore, they may see an upheaval as a result, with employees seeking other opportunities at companies that aren’t using this tech. Research shows 30% would begin actively applying and 3% would quit immediately.
- Need for control: There may be a feeling that EPST is necessary to ensure employees are staying on task and being as productive as possible. If employees know they are being watched, they may be less likely to deviate from the prescribed work schedule or take breaks when they feel they need them.
- Competitive advantage: An organization might consider the use of monitoring software as an advantage that they don’t want to reveal to their competitors; they can better manage their workforce and gain an edge. E.g., according to Marcus Clarke, founder of search marketing agency Searchant, “organizations can use productivity and surveillance technology to improve the efficiency of their workforces, gain a better understanding of their customers, and track the performance of their employees.”
- Lack of trust: The company may simply not trust its employees to be productive without constant monitoring. This lack of trust may stem from a history of poor performance or a perception that employees aren’t motivated to work as hard as they should be.
Indeed, there are benefits to productivity monitoring e.g., the ability to identify potential issues early on and optimize workflows. However, the negative impact a lack of transparency around EPST can have doesn’t outweigh the reasons for withholding information. Practicing transparency around productivity monitoring will improve employee compliance with practices, produce more accurate data, and improve trust. Treating employees as partners when it comes to improving productivity could go a very long way. Insights from Gartner highlight that employees would welcome digital monitoring as long as the oversight helped them be more productive—not used to “check- up” or spy on them.
Overall, the decision to be transparent or not about the use of monitoring software is a complex one that depends on the specific circumstances and priorities of the company. However, it’s important for companies to carefully consider the potential consequences of not being transparent, including the erosion of trust and employee morale.