Why and How to Implement Employee Activities Monitoring and Tracking Using Technology

While employee monitoring might be construed as “babysitting” – when implemented correctly, it can help you increase profitability, improve customer experience, boost employee retention, and promote healthier workspaces. Read on this article, which provides insights into why you should track employees and other user activities, how employee monitoring technology works (key types of tracking), and crucial features to consider when evaluating your monitoring options.

Beginner's Guide to Employee Monitoring
Beginner’s Guide to Employee Monitoring

Content Summary

Business Trends that Demand Better Knowledge of User Activity
Why Track Employees and Other User Activity?
Dispelling the Myths
How Employee Monitoring Technology Works
Software Deployment Options
Flexible Reporting Options
Crucial Features to Consider

On the surface, employee monitoring systems might seem like a fancy way to babysit employees and keep them from spending too long on social media sites. However, this technology stands as a far more valuable tool than people give it credit for.

When well implemented, monitoring user activity can help organizations increase profitability, improve customer experience, boost employee retention, promote healthier workplaces and more.

By capturing exactly what users are doing, employee monitoring systems deliver more focused management insights, help leaders make the changes that re-engage teams, cut costs, boost productivity, reduce internal security risks, and ultimately change the way business is done both in and out of the office.

Learn in-depth about the benefits of employee monitoring, the risks of not implementing an employee monitoring program, how employee monitoring technology works, and your software deployment options.

Business Trends that Demand Better Knowledge of User Activity

Digital Transformation
Organizations are spending billions of dollars on digital transformation in order to boost customer experience and employee experience. In order to protect that investment, they need the means to track, measure, and improve employee engagement and customer interactions.

  • Digital Transformation Spending in 2019: $1.25T
  • Top Digital Transformation Drivers? Improving Customer Experience and Employee Experience

Cybersecurity Risk
Cybersecurity incidents caused by insider threats are on the rise, and security experts warn that many of the biggest risks of data loss and breaches are caused by human error. More so than firewalls or antivirus, organizations count on the “human perimeter” to keep attackers from accessing sensitive information. Companies need a way to quickly identify when employees put that human perimeter in danger through risky and unauthorized behavior.

  • 90% of breaches are caused by human error
  • 34% of all breaches involve malicious insiders
  • The cost of malicious insider attacks in 2019? up 15% with an average cost of $1.6M annually/organization

Regulatory and Legal Environment
Cybersecurity and data privacy regulations to protect customer and employee data continue to grow stronger, demanding companies institute better visibility and control over who can access sensitive data to satisfy auditors. Meanwhile, the legal responsibility rises for companies to keep their employees safe from discrimination and cyber bullying. Managers need deeper insight into employee interactions to quickly root out harassment, and legal teams need better paper trails to protect firms from costly litigation.

  • Cost of non-compliance with data privacy regulations: 2x cost of compliance at a pricetag of $14.82M annually/org
  • Workplace discrimination litigation rose 13.6% in 2018
  • 4 in 10 Americans have personally experienced online harassment

Remote Work
Dramatic changes in the composition of today’s workforce and where people get their work done have rendered many traditional management opportunities obsolete. It’s no longer always possible to quickly check in on direct reports at their cubicles. The rise of the remote workforce and third-party workers requires managers to evolve the way they supervise and support their teams—even when members aren’t right in front of them.

  • 91% Incredible growth in Remote work over the last decade
  • 1 in 5 American workers are now contract or temporary workers

Tech Acceleration
The acceleration of technology changes in the workplace has employees constantly on the lookout for the latest apps that can help them work faster and smarter. This is a huge boost for employers, however it poses a cost management challenge. As app and software-as-a-service (SaaS) sprawl grows within many organizations, companies frequently pay for underutilized platforms and features They increasingly need a way to sensibly prune the technology that lies fallow.

  • 78% in SaaS spending last year
  • 34% of all software on work desktops is rarely or never used
  • $34B wasted annually by companies in the US and UK in unused and duplicate SaaS subscriptions

Employee monitoring can help tip off management about common symptoms of disengagement like increased usage of unproductive apps. These tools even make it possible to assign risk levels to applications and websites and calculate engagement scores based on usage to help managers identify less engaged employees and incentivize them to get back on track. On the flip side, transparent performance tracking with the right use of leaderboards and gamification can encourage friendly competition. These techniques boost morale and motivation by making everyone part of the process.

Working on engagement in this way can make a measurable difference to the bottom line.

Recent studies show companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable than those with low engagement

  • High employee engagement
  • Low employee engagement

Maintain Customer Experience and Brand Reputation
An engaged workforce is a not-so-secret ingredient to improving customer experience. According to one study, organizations that excel in customer experience tend to have 1.5x as many engaged employees as customer experience laggards.16 So it only follows that the improvements made to employee engagement through monitoring technology will also translate to better customer experience. But the impact isn’t just indirect—employee monitoring can also be used to track customer interactions and can help management spur on improved customer response times.

  • Organizations that excel in customer experience tend to have 1.5x as many engaged employees as customer experience laggards

Improve Employee Productivity
User activity data gathered through employee monitoring software makes it possible to take tangible steps to both measure and improve employee productivity over time. Managers can identify unproductive work habits and wasteful methods of accomplishing certain tasks. They can also use the data to identify strengths and weaknesses in workers and teams in order to appropriately delegate tasks and match the strengths of certain teams and workers to appropriate projects. In instances of struggling employees, supervisors can use behavioral data to identify areas of weakness so they can provide clear coaching and guidance in a timely fashion.

Bolster Business Process and Workflows
Information collected from employee monitoring can also help a manager identify inefficient uses of resources or broken processes. For example, employee monitoring can make it clear when too many employees are assigned to a certain task. The supervisor can then make the decision to reassign some workers to a different task and make the most of the company’s most important and expensive resource: its employees. Similarly, activity analyzed across an entire team can identify workflow bottlenecks and opportunities for streamlining operations or optimizing automation and tooling.

Improve Workplace Safety
Employee monitoring can help organizations establish healthier workplace dynamics by quickly rooting out consumption of questionable content like pornography, and by detecting harassment or bullying behavior. Management can set up alerts to trigger when employees are communicating with their coworkers or customers using hostile, hateful, discriminatory, or illegal language. These instant notifications enable managers to identify and respond swiftly to cases of harassment that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or unreported.

Establish Legal Paper Trail
Not only will employee monitoring provide actionable data to make the workplace safer, but it also establishes a legal paper trail to prove the organization put processes in place to protect employees. This paper trail can help provide important legal protection to back up termination proceedings and to minimize litigation risks over the long run.

Reduce Risk of Insider Threats
Implementing employee monitoring helps stop insider fraud in two important ways. On the front end, the transparent implementation of this technology provides a simple deterrent to keep many would-be fraudsters from considering malicious acts. And for the undeterred, employee monitoring puts powerful tools into the hands of network administrators so they can quickly identify insider threats, investigate incidents and build out forensic evidence. An employee monitoring solution can provide screenshots, videos, and activity data logs to show exactly what happened and when, all of which are very useful when conducting a forensic investigation.

Reduce Risk of Data Breaches
Most employees want what’s best for the company, but still put their organization at risk through simple mistakes. Employee monitoring also helps protect organizations from unintentional data loss due to user negligence. Monitoring can provide administrators visibility and alerting into when users knowingly or unknowingly violate cybersecurity policies. Some solutions will also allow an organization to block or shut down websites or computer applications that are considered insecure, risky or unproductive, as well as setting alarms or alerts for unauthorized USB activity.

Stay Compliant
Not only will employee monitoring help reduce the risk of data breaches and insider fraud, but it also offers important documentation for demonstrating compliance with data privacy and cybersecurity regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and COPAA.

Monitoring technology helps establish better audit trails. It helps simplify the process of proving employees are complying with internal data protection policies and substantiating the effectiveness of access controls that prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Optimize Technology Stack
Insights from employee monitoring technology can help IT and application owners identify the most used and most effective applications across the workforce, while similarly spotting underutilized and clunky software. Organizations can use this info to manage licensing costs and to optimize their technology stack across the organizations so that all employees have the right tools at hand to get their job done as efficiently as possible.

Why Track Employees and Other User Activity?

Employee monitoring technology offers organizations tremendous opportunities to improve employee satisfaction and productivity, enhance workplace safety, shore up cybersecurity, and bolster the bottom line in the process.

Employee Engagement and Retention
Engaged employees tend to be more productive, more creative, and more likely to develop the kinds of positive relationships with coworkers that keeps teams working well together.

Unfortunately, only a little more than one in three US workers today can be classified as engaged. The remaining 66% of employees are either not engaged, or worse, “actively disengaged.”14

Dispelling the Myths

Looking at the use cases above, it becomes clear that contrary to what some people may fear, the employee monitoring technology isn’t meant to spy on employees or impinge on their privacy.

In fact, when implemented and utilized in the proper way, modern tools that monitor user activity across workplace systems, can actually provide insightful data that protects the best interest of employees and promotes win-win situations for employer and employee (internal, remote or contract), including:

  • Giving workers the freedom to work flexibly through remote work, flex hours, and more, while offering management peace-of-mind that the work will get done
  • Helping managers allocate resources better so that employees are matched up with the work that fits them best
  • Identifying struggling employees so they can get the help they need to advance and succeed
  • Educating employees about policy violations they might not know about That put sensitive data at risk
  • Eliminating hostile behavior from coworkers that might cause good employees to quit
  • Finding ways to serve customers better

It’s possible to monitor employees respectfully and legally. The key is transparently implementing an employee monitoring program using a collaborative approach that encourages employees and management to use monitoring data to raise all boats.

How Employee Monitoring Technology Works

Types of Tracking

Key Logging: Keylogging, or keystroke logging: is a process that records the keys a user is typing on the keyboard in order. Many companies don’t consider keylogging an option because of its reputation for being used with malicious intent. Some of the potential dangers far outweigh any perceived benefits. Loggers collect and store passwords, bank account information, private messages, credit card numbers, PIN numbers, and usernames.

Screen Capture: If you have a need to record desktop activity, automated screenshots can provide a safe alternative to Keyloggers. Instead of recording every keystroke, it’s possible to configure a program to only capture a screen when specific criteria are met. And when combined with a security feature like screenshot redaction, you don’t have to worry about sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.

Telephone Monitoring: Many employee monitoring solutions record and track call center interactions to take control of quality assurance and confirm employees are providing outstanding customer service on those calls.

Email Monitoring and Recording: Email messages are considered official documents by law and will stand up as legitimate evidence in court. Employee monitoring tracks and records email messages both to stand as documentation and to monitor for unauthorized export of sensitive data or for hostile or harassing communication.

GPS Tracking: GPS tracking can be used to monitor company vehicles while in use. It may be helpful for delivery, courier, and postal companies to track vehicles, to ensure the drivers travel the most efficient routes.

Network Activity: Network activity monitoring tracks the resources that employees access, when they access them, and identifies unusual usage patterns.

Application Access: Certain employee monitoring software can track application usage, including how the application is being used and for how long. It can also trigger alerts and shutdown of application based on defined risk behaviors or corporate policies.

Internet Browsing Activity: Similarly, browsing activity can be tracked and logged with details about URL, duration of use, and even if the user is browsing in incognito mode. Administrators can flag and shut-down not-safe-for-work (NSFW) computer activity, and monitor and document inappropriate browsing content.

User Behavior Analytics: UBA takes the totality of user behavior across applications, network activity, application access, and browsing activity in order to look for unexpected behavior that could indicate insider fraud or account takeover from malicious outsiders. UBA can also help management to seek out business process bottlenecks and map more efficient workflows.

Software Deployment Options

Technological advancements have opened the door to a wide range of tools to track user activity across workplace devices and systems. Just ten years ago, most employee monitoring had to be done locally in the office on individual workstations with resource-intensive agents that sent logs to servers located on the premises.

Traditional on-premises solutions are cumbersome to manage and difficult to keep up with. Often involving manual updates during scheduled configuration change windows. This work is error prone and likely to be done by and administrator after hours. System downtime becomes yet another factor in determining workplace productivity.

Advances in cloud technology has made it possible to do this kind of monitoring in a much more flexible and lightweight manner.

Cloud-based systems can now collect a wealth information like application names, website URLs, time spent in cloud applications or websites, dates and timestamps, productivity classification, high-resolution screenshots, and video records of employees’ workflows with a lightweight agent that works on devices no matter where they’re located. Data is sent to the cloud so IT doesn’t need to worry about supporting infrastructure or storage limitations, putting always-on continuous tracking within the means of even the smallest organization. By leveraging a cloud-based option, management can check in on the team anytime, anywhere.

Flexible Reporting Options

Effective user activity monitoring platforms should offer a range of reporting to support the use cases explained earlier. Reports to look for in your solution include:

Productivity Measures, like total time spent on productive/unproductive activities, recurring periods of idle time, and productivity measured against company baselines.

Usage Insights, such as most visited websites by user, resource utilization, cloud app audits and utilization and application usage in a timeframe.

Activity Logs, with complete user activity data that can be filtered and analyzed by displayed chains of events

Suspicious Activity Measures, including information about alarms triggered by behavior defined and scored as risky, sortable by level of risk

Raw Behavior Analytics, that can be exported in CSV format or BigQuery to run advanced queries and additional analysis using business intelligence tooling

Flexible Reporting Options
Flexible Reporting Options

Crucial Features to Consider

As organizations consider different employee monitoring offerings, they should evaluate their options to consider the following key features.

Behavior Risk Analysis: Can the platforms assign risk levels to applications and websites to score for employee engagement?

Anomalous Behavior Alarms: Can the platform detect and trigger alarms for activity such as access to unapproved websites, use of unauthorized applications, unauthorized or risky USB device usage, unauthorized access to sensitive data, or initiation of suspicious file transfers?

Policy-Based Browsing/Application Restrictions: Can the system restrict websites or browsing categories such as inappropriate or offensive websites, known malicious sites, social media, online shopping, or video streaming?

Cloud-Monitoring: Can the system audit and monitor cloud application usage?

Real-Time Dashboards Is reporting offered in real-time, and can it be displayed in an overview that offers groupings and aggregated views?

Gamification: Can the monitoring data be used transparently and reported by groups to encourage competition between teams and certain types of employees?

Source: ActivTrak