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The easiest way to destroy employee trust…


“I just discovered my company is using software that tracks my EVERY keystroke, including passwords and takes pictures of me.”

If you have never heard of screen monitoring software before, it is basically a program that is deployed onto your work station and/or phone, and tracks EVERYTHING you do. It can take screenshots of your screen every few seconds, record where you click and which applications you’re spending time in, and some even capture photos or video using the camera… creepy!

These products know when you’re on social media, when you look at personal emails and when you are shopping online. They even know if your child uses the computer while you are at work (and they allow that). Companies that deploy these products will say they just want to make sure their employees are working while they claim they pay them for their time, not their effort. But if that were true, why keep track of what sites someone visits? Why take pictures?

Although they existed prior, since the start of 2020 there has been a rapid increase in these products with dozens of companies claiming to sell employee tracking software, and an increase in the number of companies using them to help deal with remote/hybrid work models. I am convinced that these companies are all fronts for the same group of programmers who want to take over the world through cleverly packaged Trojan horses.

Employee monitoring is not a friend to productivity, but instead enforces suspicion between employer and employee.

There’s a reason why employee monitoring software is called surveillance software: it treats you like a criminal and creates an environment of distrust. Instead of empowering employees to be independent, self-motivated professionals, surveillance software keeps them on a leash by continuously checking in on them. This undermines your team’s ability to produce the best possible work.

It is also an indication that those in charge do not trust their employees, so why would employees feel motivated or compelled to give their best effort? In fact, research shows that employees who work for companies using employee monitoring software are more likely to quit, and given how competitive it is currently to attract and retain good employees… probably not the wisest strategy.

Perhaps worst of all, it wastes both employer and employee time through increased processes without providing any real benefit. Surveillance software has been proven to be ineffective time and time again due to its detrimental effects on employee morale, engagement, and productivity. British bank Barclays learned this lesson the hard way after their implementation of Sapience (Barclays scraps ‘Big Brother’ staff tracking system - BBC News) a couple of years ago was met with major backlash from staff. In addition to being creepy, the reality of using products like Sapience or Hubstaff is that knowing how long someone spent in front of their screen or in specific applications, provides leaders with minimal insight into what work was actually produced in that time, or where the opportunities for improvement are.

Now in saying all of that, there are use cases for when screen monitoring software is beneficial. For example: to accelerate process analysis, process mining software can be deployed onto the workstations of users completing said processes for recommended duration; or to write Standard Operating Procedures more efficiently, screen capture software can be utilized by those tasked with the documentation completion. In both of those examples however, the end users are consulted prior to deployment about what the desired outcomes are, the length of time they’ll need to have the software on their workstation, and most importantly that THEY”LL HAVE A PROGRAM RECORDING THEM!

All this is to say that employee monitoring, surveillance software, screen scraping - whatever you want to refer to as, is a terrible way to try and manage staff performance. A better solution for organizations that are looking to gain greater visibility into the performance of their employees is one that focuses on outcomes rather than time spent in front of the screen, providing insight on why results are what they are, and giving agency to people to foster a culture of high performance and continuous improvement. Not only will this result in a greater performance across the organization, but it will also improve employee engagement so you’ll attract and retain the best talent.