Companies are looking beyond surveys to high-tech tools to assess employee attitudes.
Increasingly, companies are collecting data about what employees do and say. According to one recent survey, 22% of organizations worldwide use employee-movement data, 17% monitor work-computer-usage data, and 16% use calendar-usage data. While employers say this monitoring technology enables them to improve productivity and engagement, employees often resent what they see as an invasion of their privacy. HR can play a key role in ensuring that monitoring is done appropriately and that employees understand what is being done and why.
Historically, companies have used formal, large-scale employee surveys to assess how employees feel about their jobs and the workplace. However, these are generally time- and labor-intensive and offer limited—and not always completely candid—insights. Data collected from monitoring technology can provide more specific insights about how employees feel about their jobs and their work environment. At the same time, this data enables leadership to understand the context of what employees are saying and doing.
Despite some concerns and controversies, employers aren’t moving away from monitoring technology. Instead, according to one survey, more than 50% are using nontraditional monitoring techniques; and by 2020, about 80% of companies will be monitoring employees with a variety of new tools and data sources. What is nontraditional monitoring? It means thing such as analyzing email texts, monitoring social media messages, tracking appointments, gathering biometric data, and generally understanding how employees are utilizing their workspace.
Using this technology effectively requires addressing two key issues. First, should the organization act on the analysis of employee data? Then, if so, who is liable for decisions made based on the analysis of data collected? Before implementing any monitoring technology or processes, you need to determine your organization’s comfort level with this effort and ensure you are following all laws and regulations. Involve your general counsel, CEO, and other C-suite executives to determine what you can do, how you will do it, and how you plan to use the information you collect while protecting employees’ privacy rights. It’s important to know what your state laws say about the use of monitoring data. For instance, several states have enacted legislation that prevents employers from asking employees or job candidates to share passwords to personal accounts to get or keep a job.
It is key to be open with employees about what you’re doing. In 2018, 30% of employees said they are comfortable with their activities being monitored, up from 10% in 2015. When employers explain the reason for the monitoring, 50% of workers said they are comfortable with it. Without transparency, employees are more likely to assume the worst; so even when the truth comes out, they may not believe it and may continue their objections to the monitoring. Of course, companies can give employees a choice about whether or not to participate in data collection.
Communicate the results of monitoring efforts to employees. When data is being used to create a healthier, more productive workplace and a more positive employee experience, workers are more likely to understand and accept monitoring. However, it is important to walk the straight and narrow and ensure that this data is protected and not misused in any way.