Big Boss or Big Brother? Top 5 employee monitoring systems
The research confirms it: companies that use employee data to inform their business decisions are more competitive and earn higher returns than their less technologically advanced – and less morally ambiguous – competitors.
Without a doubt, it’s in a company’s best interest to gather data and monitor their employees. But any company, to be profitable and sustainable, must be built upon trust, culture, and a clear vision. No one wants to work in – or invest in, or lead – an office built on suspicion.
So how do you balance increased revenue with decreased sentiment? Depending on your goals, your company, and your culture, there are a number of different softwares you can purchase, ranging from the Orwellian ever-watching eye, to the less threatening website filters or anonymous data collection tools.
Before picking your employee surveillance system, ask yourself these questions:
Do you want to measure efficiency?
If yes, you’ll want to try ActiveTrak. It’s productivity-oriented, minimally invasive, and absolutely free. This easy-to-install software provides both a high-level overview of your company’s digital footprint, as well as a more detailed look at how your over- and under- achievers are spending their time online. For best practice, use this data to motivate your workers – not suffocate them.
Do you want to monitor key strokes?
Try Soft Activity Monitor. This monitoring software gives you a clear window into the digital lives of your employees, all in real-time. Keystrokes, emails, and chat conversations are saved as text files and screenshots for you to review at your own convenience.
In terms of reporting, Activity Monitor is capable of pulling aggregate data as well as employee-specific reports that highlight activity including photo downloads, texts, movies, and work applications.
If you select Activity Monitor as your software of choice, remember that employees are human, and must be treated as such. They require time to decompress, browse the web, and send personal emails, within reason. Don’t weaponize this tool; use it to your peoples’ advantage.
Do you want a complete picture of online activity, including printing permissions and USB usage?
Teramind is your one-stop-monitoring-shop. Widely considered the #1 employee monitoring software, it gives employers a deep and nuanced look into their workers’ online activity.
Everything from the files they open/delete/modify/transfer to USB, to the documents they print, to the websites they visit, is viewable in real-time.
This robust tool further allows you to create rules limiting one person or group’s access to a certain website while allowing it to others. Imagine marketing teams, who may need to be on Facebook and Twitter while other teams are only afforded limited access (say, on breaks and during lunch).
Again, this tool is quite invasive. For the best results, share with your workers the type of data you’ll be monitoring. Don’t sneak it in under the radar; allow your employees in on the process, and frame it in a way that benefits them directly.
Do you want a comprehensive cloud-based system?
We’ve already seen ActiveTrak, which installs wirelessly and can be accessed anywhere. If you’re looking for a similarly easy installation, but a more vigorous tool, try Sentry PC.
After the simple installation, you’ll be able to filter websites, applications, chats and games either individually or by category. Worried about theft? You can also create rules that prevent the use of USBs or external drives.
Do you want a small business solution?
Each of the tools listed will help your company function more efficiently – but they may not be the right choice for your small business. Enter ContentProtect.
This product is specially made for businesses with 99 employees or fewer. It understands that small businesses face unique challenges, and offers an excellent ‘bring your own device’ option that allows you to easily run the software on your employee’s computer.
What else is out there?
Earlier this year the Chicago Tribune revealed that Amazon workers were being treated more like robots than humans. Adorned with movement-tracking wristbands to monitor their whereabouts and productivity levels, Amazon once again succeeded in raising the bar on employee dehumanization.
Amazon’s data collection methods are unorthodox and unscrupulous, but they’re not your only option. Every day, innovative companies are inventing new ways to better understand and monitor your workforce.
Heard of Vibe? It’s a new AI tool that analyzes Slack conversations to assess employee morale – without ever revealing the identity of a single worker.
Or check out Nashville-based Digital Reasoning, a Big Data company that uses intricate algorithms to comb through millions of employee emails in an effort to pinpoint – and prevent – suspicious behavior. Targeted mainly towards financial institutions, this software helps to prevent insider trading and information theft.
Digital Reasoning’s Data Scientist Matthew Pencer explains, “the algorithm is intended to surface emails that match a highly specific list of incriminating or suspicious terms, and only when these terms are used in certain contexts. Otherwise, no emails are read by humans.”
Still unsure about this whole enterprise? If all else fails, Harvard Business Review suggests defaulting to anonymity. Aggregate data, omit names and numbers, and analyze your workforce as a whole.
Perhaps most importantly, be forthcoming. Your employees don’t want to be tricked or spied on; they want to play an active role in making the office a better place to work. Share with them how you’ll be using this data, and follow through on your promises. The worst thing you can do is collect information without sharing its uses – your employees will assume the worst.
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