Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
There was an article recently in The New York Times titled “The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score”. It’s an interesting read about employee electronic tracking, monitoring, and ranking. Companies are saying that this is being done to ensure efficiency and accountability. The reality is that nothing
says screams “I don’t trust you” like telling an employee you’re monitoring their activity.
I’m going to assume that anyone monitoring their employee’s activity has checked with their employment attorney to discuss the legal advantages and disadvantages of this decision. I want to talk about the workplace challenges.
PRODUCTIVITY: The NYT article included productivity in their title, so I want to start with that. I’m totally cool measuring productivity. But productivity is not solely calculated based on time. Factors such as manager behavior, equipment, safety, company policies, and worker skills must be considered too. An employee who doesn’t receive the proper training will take longer to do the work. An employee who has outdated equipment will have to create workarounds and take longer to do the work. You see my point.
PERFORMANCE: Another factor that organizations must consider is how well they’ve set the employee up for success in terms of understanding the company’s performance standard. Do employees know what acceptable performance looks like? Have they been trained to the company’s performance standard? This is going to include current job descriptions, comprehensive onboarding, and relevant training programs. It also means that manager / employee communications must be clear.
FEEDBACK: Speaking of the performance standard, are employees receiving regular feedback about their performance? This is where the accountability piece comes in. Managers should be able to provide employees with feedback – positive and corrective – about their performance based on results. Productivity is about producing something. Employees can be held accountable for whatever they are producing. If an employee isn’t producing enough, you don’t need monitoring to figure that out.
HOWEVER, if the concern is that employees are producing enough but the organization believes that maybe they could produce more…then IMHO, that’s where the monitoring conversation comes in. The company is trying to figure out where they can get more production without hiring more people and paying more in salary. They could ask employees about their workload, but they don’t trust employees to give them the answer. Yes, call me cynical. It’s exactly this type of thinking that started the quiet quitting trend.
RANKING: In the past, many organizations have used performance rankings and later abandoned the practice. There’s a good reason why. Here’s an example: If we have a department of ten salespeople, and we rank them based on sales, then one salesperson will be the best and another the worst. For this example, let’s say Leonard is the worst. He sold $10M last quarter with a $1M goal. Yep, that’s right. The company’s lowest ranked salesperson blew their goal out of the water. The problem isn’t them. It’s the goal, which was probably set by the company. That’s the problem with ranking.
There’s one other thing that I want to mention. This whole conversation about monitoring and ranking shouldn’t be based on where the employee is located. Frankly, if there’s a concern about a remote worker having more free time than an onsite worker, the answer isn’t monitoring. Maybe it’s letting more people work remotely. Or training managers how to better manage their remote teams.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know that employees are doing the work to the company’s quality standard. And there’s nothing wrong with holding people accountable. But monitoring isn’t the solution. It’s treating people like adults, with respect, while holding them accountable for the work.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at SAP Ariba Live in Barcelona, Spain21