Improving Productivity Through Employee Monitoring – A beginners guide
On the surface, employee monitoring systems might seem like a fancy way to babysit employees and keep them from spending too long on social media sites. However, this technology stands as a far more valuable tool than people give it credit for.
When well implemented, monitoring user activity can help companies increase profitability, improve customer experience, boost employee retention, and promote healthier workplaces.
By capturing exactly what users are doing, employee monitoring systems become productivity tools that deliver more focused management insights, help leaders make the changes that re-engage teams, cut costs, boost productivity, reduce internal security risks, and ultimately change the way business is done both in and out of the office.
Cybersecurity incidents caused by insider threats are on the rise, and security experts warn that many of the biggest risks of data loss and breaches are caused by human error.
More so than firewalls or antivirus, companies count on the “human perimeter” to keep attackers from accessing sensitive information. They need a way to quickly identify when employees put that human perimeter in danger through risky and unauthorised behavior.
Organisations are spending billions on digital transformation in order to boost customer experience and employee experience. In order to protect that investment, they need the means to track, measure, and improve employee engagement and customer interactions.
The acceleration of technology changes in the workplace has employees constantly on the lookout for the latest apps that can help them work faster and smarter.
This is a huge boost for employers, however it poses a cost management challenge. As app and software-as-a-service (SaaS) sprawl grows within many organisations, companies frequently pay for underutilised platforms and features.
They increasingly need a way to sensibly prune the technology that lies fallow.
Employee monitoring technology offers organisations tremendous opportunities to improve employee satisfaction and productivity, enhance workplace safety, shore up cybersecurity, and bolster the bottom line in the process.
Engaged employees tend to be more productive, more creative, and more likely to develop the kinds of positive relationships with coworkers that keeps teams working well together.
Employee monitoring can help tip off management about common symptoms of disengagement like increased usage of unproductive apps.
Productivity tools even make it possible to assign risk levels to applications and websites and calculate engagement scores based on usage to help managers identify less engaged employees and incentivise them to get back on track.
On the flip side, transparent performance tracking with the right use of leaderboards and gamification can encourage friendly competition.
These techniques boost morale and motivation by making everyone part of the process.
Working on engagement in this way can make a measurable difference to the bottom line.
An engaged workforce is a not-so-secret ingredient to improving customer experience. According to one study, organizations that excel in customer experience tend to have 1.5 x as many engaged employees as customer experience laggards.
It only follows that the improvements made to employee engagement through monitoring technology will also translate to better customer experience.
But the impact isn’t just indirect— employee monitoring can also be used to track customer interactions and can help management spur on improved customer response times.
User activity data gathered through employee monitoring software makes it possible to take tangible steps to both measure and improve employee productivity over time.
Managers can identify unproductive work habits and wasteful methods of accomplishing certain tasks.
They can also use the data to identify strengths and weaknesses in workers and teams in order to appropriately delegate tasks and match the strengths of certain teams and workers to appropriate projects.
In instances of struggling employees, supervisors can use the behavioral data to identify areas of weakness so they can provide clear coaching and guidance in a timely fashion.
Information collected from employee monitoring can also help a manager identify inefficient uses of resources or broken processes.
For example, employee monitoring can make it clear when too many employees are assigned to a certain task.
The supervisor can then make the decision to reassign some workers to a different task and make the most of the company’s most important and expensive resource: its employees.
Similarly, activity analysed across an entire team can identify workflow bottlenecks and opportunities for streamlining operations or optimising automation and tooling.
Employee monitoring can help companies establish healthier workplace dynamics by quickly rooting out consumption of questionable content like pornography, and by detecting harassment or bullying behavior.
Management can set up alerts to trigger when employees are communicating with their coworkers or customers using hostile, hateful, discriminatory, or illegal language.
These instant notifications enable managers to identify and respond swiftly to cases of harassment that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or unreported.
Not only will productivity tools provide actionable data to make the workplace safer, but it also establishes a legal paper trail to prove the organisation put processes in place to protect employees.
This paper trail can help provide important legal protection to back up termination proceedings and to minimise litigation risks over the long run.
Implementing employee monitoring helps stop insider fraud in two important ways.
On the front end, the transparent implementation of this technology provides a simple deterrent to keep many would-be fraudsters from considering malicious acts.
And for the undeterred, employee monitoring puts powerful tools into the hands of network administrators so they can quickly identify insider threats, investigate incidents and build out forensic evidence.
An employee monitoring or productivity solution can provide screenshots, videos, and activity data logs to show exactly what happened and when, all of which are very useful when conducting a forensic investigation.
Most employees want what’s best for the company, but still put their company at risk through simple mistakes.
Employee monitoring also helps protect companies from unintentional data loss due to user negligence.
Monitoring can provide administrators visibility and alerting into when users knowingly or unknowingly violate cybersecurity policies.
Some solutions will also allow blocking or shutting down of websites or computer applications that are considered insecure, risky or unproductive, as well as setting alarms or alerts for unauthorised USB activity.
Not only will employee monitoring help reduce the risk of data breaches and insider fraud, but it also offers important documentation for demonstrating compliance with data privacy and cybersecurity regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and COPAA.
This technology helps establish better audit trails. It helps simplify the process of proving employees are complying with internal data protection policies and substantiating the effectiveness of access controls that prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data.
Insights from employee monitoring technology and productivity tools can help IT and application owners identify the most used and most effective applications across the workforce, while similarly spotting underutilised and clunky software.
Companies can use this info to manage licensing costs and to optimise their technology stack across the organisation so that all employees have the right tools at hand to get their job done as efficiently as possible.
Looking at the use cases above, it becomes clear that contrary to what some people may fear, the employee monitoring technology isn’t meant to spy on employees or impinge on their privacy. That’s why viewing it as a productivity tool is key!
In fact, when implemented and used in the proper way, modern tools that monitor user activity across workplace systems, can actually provide insightful data that protects the best interest of employees and promotes win-win situations for employer and employee (internal, remote or contract), including:
It’s possible to monitor employees respectfully and legally.
The key is transparently implementing an employee monitoring program using a collaborative approach that encourages employees and management to use productivity data to raise performance.
Key Logging Keylogging, or keystroke logging, is a process that records the keys a user is typing on the keyboard in order.
Many companies don’t consider keylogging an option because of its reputation for being used with malicious intent. Some of the potential dangers far outweigh any perceived benefits.
Loggers collect and store passwords, bank account information, private messages, credit card numbers, PIN numbers, and usernames.
Screen Capture If you have a need to record desktop activity, automated screenshots can provide a safe alternative to Keyloggers.
Instead of recording every keystroke, it’s possible to configure a program to only capture a screen when specific criteria are met.
And when combined with a security feature like screenshot redaction, you don’t have to worry about sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.
Many employee monitoring solutions record and track call center interactions to take control of quality assurance and confirm employees are providing outstanding customer service on those calls.
Email messages are considered official documents by law and will stand up as legitimate evidence in court.
Employee monitoring tracks and records email messages both to stand as documentation and to monitor for unauthorized export of sensitive data or for hostile or harassing communication.
GPS tracking can be used to monitor company vehicles while in use. It may be helpful for delivery, courier, and postal companies to track vehicles, to ensure the drivers travel the most efficient routes.
Network activity monitoring tracks the resources that employees access, when they access them, and identifies unusual usage patterns.
Certain employee monitoring and productivity software can track application usage, including how the application is being used and for how long. It can also trigger alerts and shutdown of application based on defined risk behaviors or corporate policies.
Similarly, browsing activity can be tracked and logged with details about URL, duration of use, and even if the user is browsing in incognito mode.
Administrators can flag and shut-down not-safe-for-work (NSFW) computer activity, and monitor and document inappropriate browsing content.
UBA takes the totality of user behavior across applications, network activity, application access, and browsing activity in order to look for unexpected behavior that could indicate insider fraud or account takeover from malicious outsiders.
UBA can also help management to seek out business process bottlenecks and map more efficient workflows.
Technological advancements have opened the door to a wide range of tools to track user activity across workplace devices and systems. Just ten years ago, most employee monitoring had to be done locally in the office on individual workstations with resource-intensive agents that sent logs to servers located on the premises.
Traditional on-premises solutions are cumbersome to manage and difficult to keep up with. Often involving manual updates during scheduled configuration change windows. This work is error prone and likely to be done by and administrator after hours. System downtime becomes yet another factor in determining workplace productivity.
Advances in cloud technology has made it possible to do this kind of monitoring in a much more flexible and lightweight manner.
Cloud-based systems can now collect a wealth information like application names, website URLs, time spent in cloud applications or websites, dates and timestamps, productivity classification, high-resolution screenshots, and video records of employees’ workflows with a lightweight agent that works on devices no matter where they’re located.
Data is sent to the cloud so IT doesn’t need to worry about supporting infrastructure or storage limitations, putting always-on continuous tracking within the means of even the smallest organization.
By leveraging a cloud-based option, management can check in on the team anytime, anywhere.
Effective user activity monitoring platforms should offer a range of reporting to support
the use cases explained earlier. Reports to look for in your solution include:
Productivity Measures, like total time spent on productive/unproductive activities, recurring periods of idle time, and productivity measured against company baselines.
Usage Insights, such as most visited websites by user, resource utilization, cloud app audits and utilization and application usage in a timeframe.
Activity Logs, with complete user activity data that can be filtered and analyzed by displayed chains of events
Suspicious Activity Measures, including information about alarms triggered by behavior defined and scored as risky, sortable by level of risk
Raw Behavior Analytics, that can be exported in CSV format or BigQuery to run advanced queries and additional analysis using business intelligence tooling
As companies consider different employee monitoring offerings and productivity tools, they should evaluate their options to consider the following key features.
Can the platforms assign risk levels to applications and websites to score for employee engagement?
Can the platform detect and trigger alarms for activity such as access to unapproved websites, use of unauthorized applications, unauthorised or risky USB device usage, unauthorised access to sensitive data, or initiation of suspicious file transfers?
Can the system restrict websites or browsing categories such as inappropriate or offensive websites, known malicious sites, social media, online shopping, or video streaming?
Can the system audit and monitor cloud application usage?
Real-Time Dashboards Is reporting offered in real-time, and can it be displayed in an overview that offers groupings and aggregated views?
Can the monitoring data be used transparently and reported by groups to encourage competition between teams and certain types of employees?
The Zinia Productivity Tool, offered as a service with local onboarding, can help you get started reaping the benefits of employee monitoring with a respectful and legal employee monitoring program. This service is flexible, affordable, and easy to deploy across an entire company.
Unlike traditional productivity tools that offer only a technical view of users, this solution delivers rich, contextual user activity insights through the human vantage point by unifying actions, context an intent across a comprehensive set of digital environments.
Bottom line, employee monitoring technology and productivity tools offer some very important big picture benefits to businesses both large and small, including:
+ Better Productivity + Operational Efficiency + Increased Profitability + Stronger Security and Compliance + Happier Employees