Employee Monitoring Methods: The Top Options

Employee Monitoring Methods: The Top Options

Big brother came to the workplace a long time ago. It used to be managers standing behind you as you worked, but now it comes in a more productive and useful form. There are many types of business software to solve that problem, employee monitoring tools being one of them. Some of the best employee monitoring tools allow managers to monitor workplace activity while employees are left alone to do their business. Employers are increasingly combining technology with policy to:

  • Manage productivity
  • Manage security
  • Reduce litigation
  • Manage other risks

According to a study conducted a few years ago by the American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute, 28% of employers who have fired workers for e-mail misuse and cited the following reasons:

  • Violation of a company policy (64%)
  • Offensive or inappropriate language (62%)
  • Excessive non-business or personal use (26%)
  • Violating confidentiality rules (22%)
  • Other (12%)

30% of managers have fired subordinated for Internet misuse and cited the following reasons:

  • Viewing, uploading, or downloading content deemed inappropriate or offensive (84%)
  • Violation of company policies (48%)
  • Excessive non-business use (34%)
  • Other (9%)

The study also found that employers are primarily concerned about inappropriate web surfing and 66% monitor Internet connections while 65% use software to block connections to inappropriate websites, a 27% increase since 2001 when a similar study was first conducted.

Samples employers who restrict access to the Internet are primarily concerned about employees visiting:

  • Adult sites with sexual, romantic, or pornographic content (96%)
  • Game sites (61%)
  • Social networking sites (50%)
  • Entertainment sites (40%)
  • Shopping/auction sites (27%)
  • Sports sites (21%)
  • External blogs (18%)

Clearly, employers have serious concerns about what employees are doing on company time. If you are such an employer, the following employee monitoring tools will help you monitor what your workers are doing at the workplace.

But, before we proceed, take note that employee monitoring software falls broadly into two categories:

  • Overt – the presence of these applications is known to the employees. Employees are made aware that they are being monitored and the applications or gadgets are in plain sight.
  • Covert – the presence of covert applications and tools isn’t revealed to the worker.

Whether you use covert or overt methods will depend a great deal on the privacy and employment laws in your jurisdiction as well as your motives. In the case of motives, if you simply want to ensure you are getting value for money, you may want to go with overt methods. However, if you suspect employees are stealing stock or a crime is being committed on your premises, covert methods will yield better results.

Computer employee monitoring tools

Computer monitoring software includes all applications that can be deployed on a computer and used to monitor what an employee is doing on company time. The following are all examples of employee monitoring tools:

Time tracking applications

Time tracking apps are overt methods of monitoring employees. They are downloaded and installed by the employee and the worker must launch the app in order to start tracking time. These apps are invaluable when managing a remote team. They are also affordable and easy to use. Hubstaff is one such application. Once installed on a computer, it logs timesheets and uploads screenshots of the worker’s computer to a central server. The employee then checks the logs at the end of the week to see what the employee has been working on. Only work related activity qualifies for payment. So if a worker has spent most of the working hours on Facebook, this will clearly be visible. For more information on how Hubstaff can help you monitor your employees, check out the video below.

Project management employee monitoring tools

There are several excellent project management tools that can monitor employees. Projects are created within these applications and each employee is allocated a task with specific deadlines. The employee has to update their progress on a regular basis. This was, a manager can tell whether actual work is being done.

Normally, management will have data on precisely how long it should take an employee to complete a given task. Thus, if the employee is tweeting, posting or doing other tasks unrelated to work, that fact will become evident once deadlines are not met. In addition to being a time tracking application, Hubstaff also doubles up as project management software through integrations with sites like Basecamp, activeCollab, and JIRA.

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Computer spyware

As the name implies, these are covert methods. They are installed on employees computers without their knowledge. They typically operate in the background and silently record computer activity. Logs are covertly uploaded to a central server or stored locally for later access by the installer.

Computer spyware to monitor employees comes with several features. The more powerful applications come with a whole range of features that include:

  • Keystroke Logger
  • Email Monitoring
  • Events & Timeline Reports
  • Website Activity
  • Application Use
  • Documents
  • File Access
  • Removable Storage Tracking
  • Real-Time Monitoring
  • Deleted & Retrieved Critical Data
  • Print Monitoring
  • Social Media Monitoring
  • Inactivity Monitoring
  • Attendance Tracking

Mobile/Smartphone employee monitoring tools

Employee Monitoring Tools: The Top 10 OptionsThe mobile phone is a ubiquitous device that is no longer simply used for making telephone calls. A contemporary smartphone can do just about anything that a computer can do, in fact, it can do much more. Companies that issue mobile phones to employees are using both covert and overt methods to find out what the employee is up to.

Overt methods of tracking employees include tracking their location using mobile devices. This helps employers to send the nearest worker to a client and to assist employees that may get into trouble in the field.

Covert methods include mobile phone spyware that logs phone calls and messages, and maintains a record of GPS co-ordinates of all places the employee has visited. A company concerned that a worker is selling trade secrets may want to use this method.

GPS time tracking

Does your business manage remote teams? Remote workers usually have a lot of freedom when they are out in the field. It is hard to verify what they are doing in the field. This is bad for business. GPS time tracking is the way to go.

The technology has traditionally been used for fleet management but companies  are now using GPS time tracking to better understand their business by gaining insights into how employees spend time in the field. This allows a company to get rid of inefficiencies and improve service delivery. GPS may be covert or overt depending on your motives.

There are two ways you can implement GPS time tracking; the first way involves using a mobile GPS time tracker application which every worker downloads and install on a company-issued smartphone. The second option is to install a GPS tracker on all vehicles used by employees.

Intelligent software

Intelligent software refers to a wide range of software solutions that digitally monitor workers’ behavior looking for patterns of productivity, inefficiencies, and even theft.

At the heart of the intelligent software is productivity analysis. Productivity Analysis allows you to break things down at the department, group, or individual level, or at a macro ­level­­ by viewing your entire organization to answer crucial questions such as:

  • Which are the most used applications?
  • Who are the most productive workers?
  • Facebook was open for five hours? Was it being used for work related tasks all that time?
  • Are remote workers using their time and resources appropriately?

Sociometric Analysis

sociometrics | Employee Monitoring Tools: The Top 10 Options

Image: Sociometric by Foam / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tools that undertake sociometric analysis are intelligent software that measures the impact of social relationships on workplace productivity. The company that’s the leader in this field is Sociometric Solutions, a Boston, MA-based business which provides management services for companies and organizations using sociometric analysis.

The Sociometric Badge is the company’s social sensing platform. The is worn by employees and is capable of capturing face-to-face interactions, extracting social signals from speech and body movement, and measuring the proximity and relative location of users.

Using this technology, the company has been able to determine a number of things for clients, for example;

  • One finding was that simple physical changes such as having larger tables in a cafeteria facilitated more interaction and collaboration among colleagues than smaller tables.
  • Another finding emphasized the importance of group breaks and office spaces which facilitate such breaks as having an important effect on employee morale and efficacy.

Access control solutions

Access control | Employee Monitoring Tools: The Top 10 OptionsAccess control is the selective restriction of access to a place, in this case, the workplace. The access control point can be a door, turnstile, parking gate, elevator, or another physical barrier, where granting access can be electronically controlled.

Typically, the access point is a door. An electronic access control door can contain several elements. At its most basic, there is a stand-alone electric lock. The lock is unlocked by an operator with a switch. To automate this, operator intervention is replaced by a reader. The reader could be a keypad where a code is entered, it could be a card reader, or it could be a biometric reader. Readers do not usually make an access decision, but send a card number to an access control panel that verifies the number against an access list.

The benefits of access control are being able to monitor what time employees report to work and leave. Regular review of the access logs will reveal employees that are stealing time from the company.

Video surveillance

Video surveillance | Employee Monitoring Tools: The Top 10 Options

Three Surveillance Cameras by Hustvedt / CC BY-SA 3.0

Video is widely used to monitor employees in many industries. It is especially useful in the manufacturing and hospitality industries. Cameras can be deployed covertly or overtly. Cameras in plain view of employees serve as deterrents to slouching.

There are many types of cameras depending on your needs and budget. IP cameras can be accessed from a remote location which means you don’t have to be physically present to see what your employees are doing.

Legal issues

In some states and countries, it is illegal to perform invasive monitoring, such as reading an employee’s emails, unless it can be shown that it is a necessary precaution and there are no other alternatives.

In other places, everyone in the conversation must give consent before the conversation can be recorded.

In the US, the following uses of employee information are generally considered legal:

  • Find needed business information when the employee is not available.
  • Protect the security of proprietary information and data.
  • Prevent or investigate possible criminal activities by employees.
  • Prevent personal use of employer facilities.
  • Check for violations of company policy against sending offensive or pornographic email.
  • Investigate complaints of harassment.
  • Check for illegal software.

Time tracking applications like Hubstaff are overt and do not come with any legal implications.

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