Employee Monitoring: Pros, Cons, and Considerations

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
Updated May 8, 2023

Is employee monitoring an effective and appropriate means of improving business performance?

The short answer is yes—but only if that monitoring is performed appropriately, ethically, and with the proper safeguards.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the concept of employee monitoring, including:

  • What types of activities can, can’t, should, and shouldn’t be monitored
  • The pros, cons, and considerations of employee monitoring
  • How to discuss monitoring with employees 
  • The importance of data privacy and security

Given the increase in certain types of monitoring technologies, such as software analytics and geofencing, we can definitely expect to see more employee monitoring in the years ahead. 

Since the appropriate use of these technologies can generate significant ROI by evaluating employee engagement and digital adoption, it’s a good idea to pay attention to these developments and consider implementing them when possible.

The pros, cons, and considerations

In our technologically advanced world, data is more valuable than gold. 

Data can be used to gain insights and improve performance no matter where it is applied, from customer-facing services to the outside marketplace and to the employee experience. Yet there are caveats. For instance, a balance must be struck between privacy and data usage. 

Let’s take a look at how employee data can and should be used to improve organizational performance.

The advantages of employee data and monitoring

Increased efficiency and performance. In general, data-driven workflows offer hard numbers that can be used to quantify and understand business processes. The same is true with employee monitoring and the data it provides. Rather than relying on subjective opinions about what works and what doesn’t, data can be used to precisely analyze inputs, outputs, and performance.

Transparency and security. Transparency offers several benefits, such as increased security and a decreased need for micromanagement. For example, monitoring employee communications, as covered below, can prevent disputes, breaches of conduct, security issues, and more.

Insight into employees’ needs and workflows. Today’s digital workplace is continually evolving, with new software, new workflows, new goals, and new processes. These digital changes are a net positive in almost all cases. However, they also increase complexity in the workplace. To stay efficient, it is becoming increasingly important to continually analyze and adjust workflows. 

Benefits such as those covered here will naturally depend on the type of data collected and how well that data is integrated into business operations.

Types of employee data that can be monitored

Certain types of data are regularly monitored by HR, such as attendance and payroll. Also, departments such as IT and corporate security will track activities such as building access or IT account access.

On top of these standard types of data monitoring, however, employers can also benefit by tracking:

Software usage and interactions. Using tools such as WalkMe Insights, managers can learn how employees engage with their software. That information can then be incorporated into employee training, business process management, and workflow redesign efforts. 

Work communications. Communications that take place through corporate channels are frequently monitored by employers. One reason is that tracking communication can provide a “paper trail.” This can offer documentation and proof of activities, for example. This transparency can both prevent and resolve problems if the need arises.

Performance and productivity. Employee performance and productivity are frequently tracked in order to analyze and improve performance over time. These metrics are an objective way to evaluate employees when considering them for promotion.

Location data. Depending on the business, location data can be useful not only for security purposes but also for performance improvement. A delivery company, for example, can use GPS and AI software to optimize routes, reduce fuel costs, and improve employee productivity.

While all of these types of data are commonly used by employers, it is important to collect and use that data ethically.

GDPR, privacy, and other considerations

Privacy and security are two of the top concerns related to data collection and usage. This is true whether we are speaking of customer data or employee data. 

Any organization engaged in employee monitoring should therefore pay close attention to these issues.

Here are some points to consider when implementing employee monitoring solutions:

GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the EU’s regulation that governs how organizations may use individuals’ personal data. Its aim is to provide individuals with control over how their data is used. Similar privacy protection laws exist in other countries, so it is crucial to understand those laws before collecting employee data. It is equally important to examine software that collects data to ensure it abides by such laws. For instance, WalkMe Insights, the software analytics feature mentioned above, scrubs personal information in order to maintain privacy and adhere to legal regulations.

Security. Another crucial area of focus is security. Data breaches can be costly and harmful to the organization, its reputation, and the individuals involved. Note that internal data compromises—such as a manager gaining access to data that should be restricted—are also problematic.

Poor communication around monitoring and privacy. Employee resistance could inhibit data monitoring efforts, especially if employers aren’t transparent about employee rights and what data is being collected. To mitigate such pushback, it is important to be very clear about these issues.

The obstacles to employee monitoring are fortunately easy to overcome. With the proper security, privacy protections, and internal communications, organizations can keep employees protected while still leveraging their data for the benefit of the business.

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
WalkMe pioneered the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) for organizations to utilize the full potential of their digital assets. Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and contextual guidance, WalkMe adds a dynamic user interface layer to raise the digital literacy of all users.