Elliott Tiernan, Global Head of Pre-Sales at ActiveOps.
If you use technology to spy on your staff, your bottom line and staff turnover rate will feel it. So instead, use tech to empower them with good data and supportive management practices.
As we have all read and heard a thousand times, the pandemic has changed the workplace and the tools that managers and their teams need to work effectively, for good. There seems to be a consensus from both businesses and staff that working from home, at least sometimes, is a positive thing.
You may think, and you certainly would hope, that this ‘new normal’ hints at some degree of trust between employers and employees. That managers may start to trust their employees, and that employees, in turn, would reward this greater autonomy, and the morale boost, with increased productivity. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
According to recent research, employers ‘spy on’ a third of UK workers, and webcam monitoring has more than doubled. Bosses and business owners are using dystopian surveillance tools more and more to make sure their workers are being diligent. As they can’t see people working at their desks, they come to the slightly mad conclusion that people just won’t be working at all.
This paranoia, perhaps understandable as we get used to new ways of performance measuring and the required maturity to trust fellow stakeholders, is just that; paranoia. The c-suite and the managers that run the day-to-day operations must relinquish this over-the-top oversight if they want their company to perform well. This means swapping surveillance for something much harder to perfect but much more rewarding for everyone’s mental health and, therefore, their productivity; good management – trust, communication, and a focus on outcomes not just how long employees spend at their desks
Not surprisingly, a 2017 study by Baylor University found that monitoring software correlated with greater employee tension and less job satisfaction, which naturally caused a higher staff turnover. This pressure, and the subsequent desire to jump ship, is stressful enough, let alone during the economic freeze of the pandemic, when another job may not be so easy to find. More recently, MPs stated that worker surveillance and setting performance targets through algorithms damage employees’ mental health and need to be controlled by new legislation.
Workforce surveillance is not just unjust and unethical; it is entirely self-defeating. A happy team is a productive team, and an effective team is what your bottom-line needs. You’d be better off, and so would the quarter’s profits, if you motivate your staff by instilling a sense of autonomy and measuring success by results. After all, results matter, not mouse clicks and not time spent sitting at the desk.
There is a phrase for these concepts, and it isn’t some pandemic-spawned technobabble; it is simply called good management. Communicate with your employees, measure their effort by the results they achieve, and regularly review these results against other companies, departments, and staff. This way, everyone is productive, and everyone remains happy and avoids burnout. The trust goes both ways, and if you play your cards right, your staff may stay working for you – rather than filling the ever-growing number of vacancies in better-paid and better-managed roles elsewhere.
Just because some bad apples use digital tools to spy doesn’t mean that is their only use. Intelligent workforce management software coupled with the right management practices is a tried and tested approach to keeping your workforce healthy, happy, and productive (and I don’t mean by measuring their clicks). Insight into working habits and the results they achieve can help managers and the C-suite make better decisions – and I don’t just mean for their profits.
Good decisions at the top can, and should, mean better conditions for all stakeholders involved, especially employees. Better conditions mean higher productivity, improved staff well-being, and mental health. With proper workforce management, ultimately, you will have a better-performing company.