Employee Monitoring: How to Identify Slackers without Being Noticed

Employee Monitoring: How to Identify Slackers without Being Noticed

Many executives sooner or later decide to introduce an employee monitoring system in their company. However, the fact, that there is a tracking system installed in the office, should not be hidden from the employees, in order to avoid conflicts.

Timothy Mason, office staff control expert

In this article we look at: how to organize employee monitoring, which system of working time monitoring is more effective. Employee monitoring is widely used by managers who wish to keep everything under control. Modern technical equipment allows listening to any conversation, viewing the premises, and capturing network traffic on any channel.

The only question is the appropriateness of costs - employee monitoring system must be adequate to the task. So how to implement it with a minimum budget? When deciding to use employee monitoring system, first of all, it is necessary to not hide its existence from the staff. Make it so that every employee knows about it.

This, firstly, will provide you with the legal basis for this kind of monitoring, in most cases, it makes the results legitimate. (In a lot of countries even private detectives cannot do that. Only law enforcement agencies have the right to conduct covert surveillance, and even they need a permit for that) Secondly, this way you can significantly reduce security costs. Let’s remind ourselves: the goal of any security is preventing crime and creating difficulties for ever committing one, which means that hiding the fact of installation of video and audio surveillance is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive.

Surely when dialing call centers of large banks, mobile operators, and so on, you have noticed warnings similar to this one: "Your call might be recorded in order to improve the quality of service." Employees do not know whether they will or will not be recorded or whether they are ever recorded at all. But the possibility of surveillance instantly eliminates the probability of criminal communications on that channel. Similar situation we get with video and audio surveillance in meeting rooms. Hang a sign with a warning of the ongoing monitoring. Sometimes the sign itself is enough for preventing anything contradicting corporate rules from occurring in these areas.

Theoretically, you can save up on the cost of cameras in this case and just hang fake ones. Although there is a catch - cheap imitations work well for customers in public areas like supermarkets. Those, who are more or less versed in this, will easily figure out that the cameras are not real. There are no lenses in them, and it shows - the lens does not glare. In addition, employees typically communicate with each other, including guards, who are usually aware about the lack of surveillance.

Justify the need for surveillance and obtain the written consent

It is bad if the staff considers employee monitoring system as an expression of distrust (even if this is true). Therefore, you need to properly present it. For example, you can explain that the monitoring will be carried out not to punish, but to make fair decisions in difficult situations. Avoid the word "surveillance", it has a negative connotation, it is better to talk about time tracking system or incidents prevention system. Similarly, it is not necessary to tell directly that e-mail will be monitored – explain to the staff, that for the purposes of confidential information leakage prevention, management can monitor incoming and outgoing messages. But to completely avoid the problems with the law you should warn employees about monitoring not only verbally but in writing too – get the personal signature of each employee's on a consent form.

At the same time in the internal regulations you should reflect the presence of a specific monitoring system (for example, video surveillance, Internet traffic monitoring, e-mail monitoring) to justify the need for its implementation. At the same time, you must consider that if a warning about office call recordings or video surveillance makes these kinds of monitoring legitimate in most cases, then the email and correspondence monitoring is different.

On the one hand, communication via corporate mail, in theory, cannot be private. On the other hand, correspondence involves two people and one of them, firstly, might not be warned about monitoring, and secondly, might not be your employee, so you have no right to see his or her email. From a legal point of view this kind of monitoring is illegal. It is also inappropriate to check the correspondence passing through any employee’s personal account (Skype, ICQ, etc.). Therefore, sometimes it makes sense to reduce the number of channels with personal information: for example, prohibiting use of Skype, ICQ during working time. While on the other hand, if an employee uses, for example, a personal computer tablet with 3G connection, he or she can communicate outside the corporate network. Intercepting traffic from all the electronic devices in the office, including conversations on mobile phones, is theoretically possible, but in practice, it is very expensive. For most companies, the installation of such systems is not practical (not to mention that is illegal).

Therefore it is better to practice selective monitoring. Viewing and listening to everything is impossible. Therefore, only several recordings are usually selected. Generally, they are the ones with keywords. For example, "kickback, counterfeit, cash, hand over, stiff out, money, bucks", but each company has its own set of alert words. This applies to office phones surveillance, and e-mail monitoring, and controlling any other electronic communication system.

Do Targeted Monitoring

Viewing all recorded video and audio data, even selectively, is very time-consuming. A much more effective way is the targeted approach to data, that is, monitoring of individuals, about whom there is suspicion or received intel from informants. For example, this way in one company the head of sales department got exposed. Commercial director of this organization appealed to the Security Service with a request to check this employee: every day he was present in the office, but worked badly doing who knows what.

It turned out that this sales manager was very busy with work, but only working for himself. By using his position, he opened a few shops and supplied them with company’s goods with large discounts and without prepayment. In addition, every company has so called "black holes", which should be paid attention to without reminding. For example, controlling the smoking room, stairs cubbyholes or other places where employees go to have private conversations. In one instance, which was caught on a camera in such a stairwell, a sales manager gave a bundle of money to an employee of purchasing department.

This was the reason for monitoring both of them, which later showed that together they have organized a business on the side dividing the profits 50/50.

Consider the Risks of Monitoring System Introduction

Helen Richards, CEO, VisConsulting Ltd. Managers often do not trust their subordinates, so they resort to employee monitoring. But excessive staff control can sometimes cause a backlash - the desire to commit unlawful acts, but very stealthily, so that the tracking system will not be able to detect it. This is the first risk. The second risk is related to the fact that the labor market is not so large after all, and information about this kind of monitoring in any company spreads very quickly (via creating blacklists and spreading rumors). The most interesting candidates usually refuse offers of such companies, or accept positions there only for a very high salary.

This might subsequently increase turnover, which definitely affects the quality of work. Therefore, I am opposed to such employee monitoring. In order not to have to engage staff surveillance, managers and subordinates must build relationships based on trust and mutual respect. This can be done by initially selecting employees with certain personal characteristics, and motivation that coincides with company's values. And executive, in turn, must communicate with employees more often, capture the mood in the team and help resolve any work-related issues. Only then employees will no longer need to do anything in secret.

Choose a Suitable Monitoring Tool

Choice of monitoring tool mainly depends on whom you want to monitor. To track, for example, sales staff, warehouse staff, and waiters, the most appropriate option would be installation of video surveillance. But it is unlikely to be effective for control of office staff. For them it is more efficient to install a special computer program that will collect information about employee’s computer activity and record telephone conversations. Let us examine all methods in detail. CCTV. Firstly, to properly set up video surveillance in a shop, it is necessary to understand how much cameras you will need.

Typically, cameras are mounted near the products that are stolen most frequently, and near checkout aisles. Secondly, you must determine cameras’ type. It is better to use colored ones, because they are more informative. For the merchandise aisles dome cameras will be optimal. It has aesthetic appearance: little and neat, with a small lens. These cameras can be of two types: fixed lens cameras (viewing angle 90-100°) and varifocal cameras. In aisles sets of several fixed cameras are often installed. But for storeroom varifocal cameras are more suitable. Above the cash registers is better to install cameras with a clear fixed angle and higher resolution, which will allow seeing the banknotes and cashier's display. Monitoring of phone conversations.

The choice of equipment for recording landline phones conversations is quite wide: from devices that can cover multiple telephone lines to individual devices for each landline phone. In some commercial departments mobile phones are also monitored. This applies mainly to employees working remotely or on business trips: sales managers, sales representatives. In this case, it would be appropriate to provide employees with free mobile connection. This way a company will kill two birds with one stone - increase loyalty and provide monitoring. Monitoring Internet activity. It can be carried out in real time. The so-called monitoring agents let you know not only what employees’ monitors display at the moment, but also whish sites were visited, which programs were used, what information was downloaded to external drives, and also they let you read and save online correspondence. Such programs are installed on multiple computers, and all obtained information is stored on a server.

Control of non-working areas. As a rule, here we are talking about smoking rooms, kitchens, and so on. In these places it is not always expedient to install cameras. It would be cheaper to install hidden microphones or mini-tape recorders. The latter do not require special installation, it is enough to just turn them on and hide. Data collection using informants. We will note straight away that 80% of the incoming information from them is pure gossip, but, nonetheless, everything should be checked. Whistleblowers are usually divided into two categories: volunteers and recruits. The first ones may be simply telling information to the Security Service just for the sake of it.

So their effectiveness is very low. Recruited informants are much more useful. Usually they are the employees, which were caught by security service doing something illegal, such as thieving of goods in the amount sufficient for a criminal case. After a conversation with this employee Security Service can offer him or her two options: reimburse all losses and undergo a criminal investigation or simply return the money, but also...". For the second option to be possible, security service agent has to explain the conditions for future cooperation.

Place Cameras in Front of Employees

Brian Riley, co-founder of PVTechnologies Inc. Many of our customers ask to install hidden surveillance in their offices. For example, to mount the camera on the ceiling, hide them in household appliances or alarm systems. However, a hidden employee monitoring is impractical. It is much more effective to establish transparent monitoring. Here is an example.

The customer asked us to install video surveillance at a grocery store, to help prevent theft and get rid of systematic shortfalls. By customer’s request installation took place in the daytime, in front of the employees. Two cameras were installed in the street (to see store’s entrances), one - at the entrance itself (recording all incoming and outgoing visitors), one camera placed near each checkout aisle (controlling cash register and money exchange), two cameras to view the general checkout area and customers approaching it, four cameras for recording merchandise aisles, and another two in the warehouse.

Customer request to review recording remotely has also been taken into account (in objects, such as this one, a system of 8-16 cameras is usually installed). Such careful and thoughtful camera location gave its results - theft and deficit in the store were eliminated in a week. The staff could not do anything unscrupulous, because of fear of being exposed.

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