Surprise! Employees Don’t Like Workplace Monitoring

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Employers are increasingly gathering a wide range of data on employees, including their personal social media use as well as their workplace behavior. Employees aren’t happy.

According to the HR Metrics & Analytics Summit, 80 percent of organizations use employee records and data to measure performance. “A fair number” use the same information to measure retention, reduce turnover and enhance engagement and recruitment. And despite all the HR world’s talk about engagement, employee experience and the like, less than 40 percent use the collected data to improve their culture.

In conversations, many workers tell us they assume they’re being monitored to some extent. And indeed, it’s been legal for years for employers to, for example, peek into internal email accounts. The survey’s finding align with these notions: Seventy-nine percent of employees said they considered it acceptable for organizations to monitor their workplace-related tasks, while 77 percent said the same about workplace email.

However, their acceptance slides when it comes to more personal matters. For example, 46 percent said employers shouldn’t monitor their personal information, even though they provided it to HR or Finance. Half objected to employers tracking what surveys they’ve taken and 72 percent said companies shouldn’t monitor their personal social media accounts.

The also found that 57 percent of employees don’t like organizations tracking their movements within the workplace. (We know of a number of companies that require employees to scan their IDs whenever they enter or leave their work areas, presumably so managers can track trips to the restroom or cafeteria.) Nearly as many—56 percent—don’t want companies to monitor their personal interactions.

Keep Monitoring Business-Relate

Overall, HR Metrics & Analytics Summit concludes that employees don’t mind data collection when it’s related to concrete business goals. However, they don’t want it done through personal sources. That presents a challenge for employers: It’s easy to understand why management might consider physical movement through the workplace a business concern, but employees see it as going too far. A hallway conversation may be focused on a product launch, but workers don’t want anyone listening in on their brainstorming.

While employers’ data-collection capabilities “have created a lot of excitement, they have also generated some anxiety and debate,” said Tiffany Ramirez, the summit’s content editor. Data privacy concerns, she noted, “are on the rise.”

A Communications Gap

Nearly all—95 percent—of the employees surveyed said their biggest concern was whether their data was secure against hacking and theft, but only 48 percent trust their company to protect it. They also want their company to be transparent on what data is being collected, but many said their employers aren’t.

They seem to be wrong, which indicates better internal communications on the subject are in order. The survey found 85 percent of HR leaders do have privacy and security guidelines regarding what employee information is collected, how it’s stored and whether it’s used appropriately. Apparently, employees just don’t know about them.

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Not surprisingly, workers don’t object to tracking when they perceive a benefit. They’re most open to employers collecting data related to better-designed workplaces, retention, promotions and more favorable employee incentives.

While data collection and analysis is a top priority among HR leaders, relatively few are using analytics well, the summit’s report said. Thus, it recommends organizations work to improve how they analyze their data and protect their employees’ privacy.

You can download the full report here.

Chart: HR Metrics & Analytics Summit

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