Employee Monitoring: One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s Poison

Employee Monitoring: One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s Poison

According to a study conducted by GeCad company and summoned by Mediafax, half of the Romanian managers are preoccupied with monitoring employee activity, the majority thus using two or more computer applications.

As not to create a term confusion in the following, I will specify that monitoring means all actions meant to supervise employees during working hours, weather using video solutions or software applications installed on the mobile phone, on the computer network or on any other instruments that the company provides. Most frequent means of monitoring are: employee video surveillance, monitoring their access into the working space, their internet traffic and phone calls.

Certainly GeCad study refers only to the use of some monitoring software applications, but it confirms the general accepted idea that the Romanian manager is very fond of punitive management methods and not necessarily of those adapted to organization’s needs.

I will not invoke in the present article the ethical aspects of employee monitoring, as they were already discussed on our blog.

However, correlating the GeCad study results with some obtained by us somehow empiric, we conclude that even though the companies are preoccupied to monitor, they have only vague intentions of actually making something in order to increase productivity. Thus, less then 10% of the Romanian companies have defined performance indicatives therefore extremely few Romanian employees know exactly what they are expected from and what performance means, the rest just have hunches.

Maybe our results aren’t correctly quantified, but even the percentage would be double, the future’s not so bright.

Therefore we monitor employees, even though it isn’t very clear to us what exactly we should do to determine them to be productive.

It is a paradoxical attitude: to put the cart before the horses and to be surprised that the speed isn’t high enough. And when they use training programs, Romanian managers have the same vision: they don’t clearly set what abilities need to be developed, but they expect at the end “better” employees. Better salesmen, better consultants, better employees.

“Better” represents an important desiderate but extremely vague. It is not sufficient to want improvement, you must know exactly what should be made in this direction, which are the behaviors, abilities, knowledge you need to obtain in order to become better. And last but not least, what the measurement scale is that takes you from “gross” to “the very best”.

Being better in athletics maybe means a shorter running time. Meaning a higher speed, therefore a stronger or wider footing, a prompter start, a right moment acceleration. A coach that knows his apprentice also knows what to ask from him and how to describe all of this, starting from field conditions on which he is running. He doesn’t only watches him constantly, measuring the time allocated to training and the usage of the shoes.

“Better” in business can mean infinitely more. Even so managers scatter their efforts and money tracking exactly the usage of shoes, meaning working time, the one spent on the phone, the path used to get to the client, and others like that. Is this what “better” means? Doesn’t it mean a better communication, a better knowledge of what we are selling, a better way to approach the client, a better implementation? And the field? Competition, economic conditions, organizational climate, don’t they count?

Monitoring is an important intercession in some industries and professions: defense industry, in some production activities, in call center activities and the list can continue. But even there, in order to obtain the wanted productivity, it has to be correlated with other interventions meant to increase performances. Otherwise, it remains the activity that generates superficial information, irrelevant to the good development of the company. After all, employees punctuality can be important but not the one which doesn’t generate direct cash. Some talk to a client on the phone for 10 minutes, other for 30 minutes and in the end they all do the same thing: the don’t sell anything.

These are all just examples, but I hope you agree that things are much more complex than can be observed with the naked eye and therefore with the help of monitoring instruments. It is of each manager’s choice if he fires the employee because he is frequently late even if he produces more than the ones who don’t do it or he gives him a bonus because he doesn’t speak to his wife on the phone during working hours even though he doesn’t do pretty much anything else …

In conclusion monitoring without a previous notification, not assumed by the employees and not correlated with management interventions meant to improve processes and results, is just a time and energy spender. Sometimes it can be more – a true organizational menace, and the examples of companies which had internal and PR problems after employee monitoring are numerous.