How to Monitor Employees Legally and Effectively
The demand for employee monitoring tools grew by over 60% amid the pandemic. In fact, "employee monitoring software" became a key search engine term, recording a 35% more surge in traffic. The sense of urgency is set to continue as the threat of cyberattacks (especially identity theft crimes) is on the rise. In a recent report, it was reported that insider threats, too, are on the rise. As a matter of fact, 43% of the total breaches come from the entities within the organisation.
Then, of course, there's the notion of performance management which can be an effective tool for improving productivity, driving growth, and nurturing a culture of innovation. With so many benefits to using employee monitoring apps, it's understandable why businesses are now inclined to invest in their implementation. However, before committing to the purchase, it's crucial that businesses first analyse the overall employee monitoring landscape.
Questions like - Which monitoring tool works best for my business model? Will it be an effective way to increase employee productivity and engagement? How to install it? How will the legalities of using it affect my business? Would it be ethical o monitor employees? What about the employees' privacy and data protection? Should there be a set policy in place? - must be answered before the actual decision to use employee monitoring software is made.
To help you with that, here's a checklist with some guidelines on how to monitor employees effectively and legally.
1. Make Sure You Have a Clear and Legally-Binding Policy in Place
Before installing employee monitoring software, review your company's compliance policies. Be sure that all employees are aware of the data protection and privacy policies as well as the possible repercussions for violating those policies. An employee-monitoring policy could, for instance, state that the business may monitor communications with clients and vendors or the online activities of its employees. It is also a good idea to include in your policy that you can monitor the use of company-owned devices. Having these policies in place will help reduce any possible legal issues in the future regarding the usage of employee monitoring software.
2. Watch Your Legal Options
The legal landscape can be a tricky one. Privacy and data protection laws vary from one country to another. It's crucial that you know your legal obligations and the local regulations governing employee monitoring software before making a final decision.
For instance, in Europe, GDPR or the General Data Protection Regulation outlines the personal information collection guidelines that all the companies within the European Union (EU) are required to uphold. In the US, ECPA or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act weaves in a bit more flexibility by allowing employers to monitor activities on company-owned devices. At the same time, though, the law puts a break on intentional interception of oral or electronic communication.
Elsewhere in the world, such as India, it's a bit more relaxed. There are no specific rules governing the use of employee monitoring software. It's a grey area for now. In general, though, the use of such software is permitted as long as it doesn't lead to an invasion of privacy. And employers are advised to strike a balance between monitoring employees and respecting their privacy. (More on this in the next section)
So, to ensure smooth legal sailing, it's important to choose an employee monitoring tool that is compliant with the data protection and privacy laws in your country or region. We recommend seeking legal counsel or consulting with companies that specialise in privacy and data protection law. They'll be able to advise you on the legality of using employee monitoring software. You can also directly discuss it with the software vendor you have chosen.
3. Consensus Is Key
As elucidated above, it's important to secure your employees' input before implementing a monitoring tool. If the employees know about a monitoring tool, they are more likely to abide. The transparency of the monitoring tool will help improve the relationship between the employees and their employer, lower tensions, and increase productivity. More than that, the employees are likely to be more loyal to their company if they trust that their employer respects their rights and protects them.
Making transparency, your ethical compass certainly doesn't hurt your business. It shows that you are willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown future. That level of candour in communication will allow you to build lasting relationships, trust, and loyalty — which can all contribute to an improved brand image, reduced churn, and increased engagement.
4. Strike a Balance Between Exhaustiveness and Effectiveness
Circling back to the efficiency of the employee monitoring tool, it's important to comprehend what features your business actually needs. More than that, you should understand how to make the software work effectively. Some business owners turn to employee monitoring only after they are confronted with a problem, such as low productivity or high turnover. That's both a reactive and a sub-optimal strategy. The most effective way to ensure that employee monitoring is used properly and effectively is to implement it early on in the process.
When doing that, here's what to keep in mind:
The tool is exhaustive in that it can monitor internet usage, record screens, log keystrokes, track the time and location of employees, etc.
It's easy to configure and scales as your business grows.
The tool facilitates informative and easily understandable dashboard visualisations.
The tool allows for easy management and maintenance.
It's easy to install and doesn't require any additional equipment.
The tool complements your business strategy and goals.
The tool works across all the major operating systems: Windows, MacOS.
It's easy to set up and deploy across multiple locations.
The software's legal standing is defined and explicitly stated in its usage policy.
5. Aim to Strike a Balance Between Autonomy and Control
Employee monitoring is often perceived as a way to exert control over the employees. That's not always the case. In fact, it can also be used as a powerful tool for encouraging autonomy and allowing employees to do their job more effectively. For instance, software that monitors employees' internet usage can make work more efficient by reducing the back-and-forth between employees and their managers. This could significantly influence the psychological climate of the workplace.
In that light, here's what we recommend: Choose a monitoring tool that can 'flex' depending on your business model. A simple, self-service way to implement and monitor employee productivity, for instance, will empower the employees — all while reducing the cognitive load of the supervisors.
6. Measure Effectiveness
Make sure you don't lose sight of your goals while implementing an employee monitoring tool. It's critical to constantly measure the effectiveness of the software in meeting your business goals.
Consider this; Clever Control was implemented by an organisation in the wake of illegal data access and confidential information leaks. Soon, they were able to pinpoint who was accessing the confidential information, thereby curbing the leaks. In fact, the implementation saved them 500 hours of IT administrators' time - thanks to automated access management that was put in place to minimise access to confidential information.
Such benefits are not always guaranteed; however, in most cases, you can expect to see productivity increase, a higher level of engagement among employees, and the ability for you to gauge performance more accurately - all at a lower cost.
Employee monitoring is not an easy subject to tackle. However, a structured, ethical approach will reduce the legal liability and make sure your company's interests and values are aligned — ultimately making the whole process a win-win for everyone.
Looking to set up employee monitoring in your organisation? Connect with us to discuss your options.