Employee productivity monitoring: result or process?

Employee productivity monitoring with CrocoTime
Every business manager has his own view on the problem of control of personnel. For most managers, employees and business processes monitoring is an obvious need, but monitoring approaches vary widely.

One is convinced that it is only necessary to ask for results, the other prefers to keep track of all stages and tasks, for the third control means spying on staff and catching offenders. In my opinion, the last of these approaches is the worst of all. Spying demotivates employees and almost does not help to achieve results. In respect of controlling results or processes I am sure that you must combine these approaches because they are less efficient individually than together.

Why do you need employee productivity monitoring?

Employees often deny the necessity and importance of monitoring. Their motives are clear: monitoring restricts freedom and does not allow personal matters in the workplace. I find it strange to hear when managers express opinions that productivity monitoring is futile. Control is one of the main functions of any manager.

Employee productivity monitoring is necessary everywhere where there are tasks, and there are not only super motivated, resourceful and talented employees among subordinates.

Monitoring is absolutely necessary when an organization grows. Increasing complexity of hierarchical company structure increases the risk that processes at lower levels do not occur as planned at the top. In this case automated monitoring is not as much as a tool to measure performance of individual employees, but to quickly notice macro level problems and solve them. It gives a top-manager the opportunity to assess the situation on the basis of objective parameters at any time, rather than relying solely on reports of subordinates.

What do you need to monitor?

Results certainly need to be controlled: tracking totals at a glance on a certain date is the cornerstone. However, controlling a process (the progress of the movement to the result) allows detecting deviations to take corrective action in time.

So, is it possible to separate these two approaches and focus on just one? If the result is achieved and the plan is executed, as a rule, little attention is paid to how subordinates achieved it. At best, a manager will offer to review “the most effective practices” at a training seminar. However, if the result is not as expected, there is a need to understand causes of the situation.

The reasons may be different: an employee lacked the knowledge and skills (training is needed), excessive workload (distribute tasks more evenly), absence of employee motivation (understand reasons and take measures), work is not coordinated in a unit, tasks are set incorrectly or targets are overstated (discuss the problem with a manager), etc. Again, to determine the true cause, one must follow the process of work. Ideally, a manager will be able to identify the problem and fix it even at the stage of movement toward the goal, without waiting for a failure in performing the task.

Whom and how to monitor?

So, we found that for the effective management of an organization, it is necessary to monitor not only the result but also the process. However, the effectiveness of control will depend on whom exactly we want to monitor.

Process monitoring is more important than result monitoring when we have employees who spend the bulk of their work day at computers and perform standard operations. For example, accountants, call-center operators, tellers, analysts, etc. Why? Because, for these employees’ the result is strict adherence to regulations and performing their duties.

Result monitoring comes first (but does not invalidate the process monitoring), when we need to monitor employees who spend a major part of the working time on tasks that are difficult to regulate. A creative component may not be here, but employees may choose different paths to achieve the result themselves. Therefore, the result may be different. Recruiters, support professionals, system administrators, etc. can serve as an example of such employees. Process monitoring is needed here to determine best practices and understand reasons of failures.

If we talk about the nuances, it is especially important to monitor processes if your employees are mostly recent graduates. Leaving them the possibility to independently choose the ways of achieving goals, you should be aware they will learn from the mistakes at your expense.

There is a category of employees in whose work creative component prevails. These are managers, programmers, research staff, designers, writers, etc. How to monitor this category? This is a matter of intensive discussion and there is no definite answer.

In some cases specialized monitoring tools are used. Programmers actively employ various task setting systems, where an amount of time spent on a particular task is keyed in. However, this analysis is far from accurate and in many cases is not applicable. Managers often monitor and analyze working time and its effectiveness independently by using various time management tools, time trackers and automated time control systems.

Mistakes of monitoring

A good effort or action can lead to negative consequences if a wrong approach is taken. Monitoring is not an exception. There are a few mistakes that can be called classical because of their prevalence:

  1. Monitoring without understanding of the monitored process. It is difficult to control a process which a manager does not understand. For example, a manager without engineering background will not be able to effectively control a technological process by himself. In this case, it is best to delegate control of such a process to a specialist in this field.
  2. Monitoring limited only to incidents. If a manager only uses monitoring to spot mistakes of employees and tell it to them, no normal person will bear if for long when a manager only focuses on negative parts of their work. Monitoring should be a system, but it should not be too tight. Do not tug employees between checkpoints and do not forget to celebrate successes of their work.
  3. Hidden monitoring which turns into explicit when violations are found. If monitoring software is installed covertly, it is not recommended to tell employees about it when an employee’s statistics is bad. Monitor employees secretly to engage in processes that affect the motivation of lagging employees, encourage them to work. Employees will be demotivated to learn about hidden surveillance and all the useful effect of educative action to a guilty employee will be incomparably smaller than dissatisfaction of the whole team.
  4. Formal monitoring. If there are only empty threats and promises, but no action is ever taken, one should not expect results from such a “control”. Without specific requirements and actions control does not work.