You always read about the multitude of ways you can improve your business, but next to zero of them talk about what amounts to the elephant in the room: your staff. The workforce is a massive expense for most businesses; and, if it isn’t, it’s likely because you do a lot of things yourself. So, knowing that it becomes important to understand the financials around the people you have working for you. Basically, each worker has a number, and if you are getting that number out of their efforts, interfering with their work dynamic (to try to get more out of them) may actually have the opposite effect.
For the employee who isn’t making their number (again, you are the one that is going to have to come up with this figure), tracking their performance can be a good way to ascertain why they aren’t meeting expectations and how to put them in a better place, whether that be working for you or not.
The first thing that needs to be said before we get too far ahead of ourselves is that employees are people and should be treated with the respect that any person deserves. Whether they are living up to expectations or not, they aren’t robots or automatons. They have feelings and will succumb to some distractions. This should be obvious, right? Well if you talk to employees, this isn’t always the case. Some of the most popular things employees dislike about their managers are:
- There is a lack of communication at work.
- They have a lack of job security.
- They don’t get paid what they’re worth.
- They don’t get credit for their hard work.
- There is a culture of blatant favoritism.
- They are constantly being micromanaged.
- They have to deal with incompetent management.
- They are overworked.
Now, you have to understand, these are not new considerations; and, while you think they may not be happening in your business, there’s always something. That said, remember when you worked for other people…I bet you can check at least half of the line items off of that list to describe those jobs (which is likely why you went into business for yourself). It’s not like people wake up and want to be entrepreneurs. They land on that decision after working for people and after gaining some experience, realizing that they think they can do it better. Some business owners have great experiences with their staff, while some are working for others today because of terrible management experiences. The point you have to be cognizant of is that any single employee will create discord in their own head for any number of reasons; and, while you absolutely need to be mindful of your own management style to try to keep this from happening, you can’t help it when someone feels disgruntled. Sometimes it’s just a bad fit, and you can’t let disgruntled employees cost your business a chance at being successful.
Ethical/Legal Divide of Employee Monitoring
Okay, so once you realize that your biggest cost is payroll and you need to protect your business, you may come to the conclusion that tracking elements of your employee performance is a good, solid practice to get behind.
So, what do you track? Do you track something simple like attendance, or time at the office? Do you have a set of metrics that you think make the biggest differences between success and failure? Do you track their keystrokes to see what they are typing into company-owned machines? Do you track their conversations on social media or with listening devices to ensure they are making optimal use of company time? Where is the line between what is necessary information to have and what is ethically questionable human tracking?
Today, the employee monitoring software market is seeing major growth, and it’s mostly because more businesses than ever don’t want to fall victim to employee theft. Their position is that employees are not to be trusted to not steal company data, or resources, or time.
Then, you have to consider what is actually legal. You’d probably be surprised to learn the lengths that businesses can legally go to protect their assets as it pertains to their worker’s privacy. In some cases, courts have given companies the go ahead to track their employees long after they’ve left the office. In fact, one of the biggest points of contention when it comes to employees being tracked is that they need to give their business the ability to access work-related information on their smartphone. What’s stopping a curious business owner from looking through one of their employee’s private messages? Not very much.
As data privacy becomes a bigger and bigger issue in society, there’s no telling where this issue is going to land. After all, employees work for the business, and legally speaking, not the other way around.
Some Monitoring Tips
In all the time that employers have been monitoring their employees, none of the information has had any transparency to it in the least. All the data, whether it be surveillance footage, access control time stamps, employee-to-client correspondence, employee-to-employee correspondence, websites visited, or keystrokes, none of that information is made available to the person being monitored. If you decide that you need to watch your people, you should at least let them in on it. It’s not just an ethical issue, it’s a practical one. The funny thing about transparency is that if you know you are being watched, you are less inclined to do things that may get you into trouble.
Another tip is to work out how the employee makes your business money before judging them with metrics that don’t have anything to do with the direct value they have. For example, you own a baseball team and you are trying to decide which pitcher you want to keep for next season. You go to the stats and you see that Pitcher 1 batted .097 and Pitcher 2 batted .199. How does that statistic help you determine who is the best pitcher? It doesn’t. Stay away from meaningless metrics that sound good, but don’t have any practical use.
Finally, realize what your employees are worth. If you are monitoring your staff and one employee is obviously having a tough go of it, address the situation. You will probably find out that there is something that is making that employee lag behind. That’s not to say that you don’t make solid business decisions if necessary, but finding new help can be hard, and if one of your people is going through a rough patch, the metrics may spot it, but it’s on you to get to the bottom of it.
What is your position on employee monitoring? Do you think you should do enough to protect your business’ operational integrity, or do you think that you should take it further? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and return to our blog regularly for more great business and IT information.