Your employees hate being watched. Learn how to humanize productivity tracking


If your employees feel like they’re constantly being watched, you’re less likely to retain them.

When it comes to tracking worker productivity, especially in remote, hybrid, and asynchronous work environments, where bosses may not physically “see” their employees, some monitoring tactics are controversial. More than half of workers would quit their job if their employer insisted on audio or video recording them, or used facial recognition to monitor productivity, according to a May 2022 survey of 750 tech workers by Washington, DC-based business intelligence firm Morning Consult.

To Dan Pupius, the San Francisco-based founder of the remote work management tool Interval, the Big Brother question is directly related to whether leaders subscribe to Theory X or Theory Y, which was invented by social psychologist Douglas McGregor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in 1960. Basically , Theory X proposed that workers, by default, are unmotivated, meaning they require supervision and strict rules; Theory Y, on the other hand, holds that people are intrinsically motivated and want to find a sense of mastery in their work – so they can function in a more laissez-faire workplace. Later scholars studied Theory X and Theory Y with respect to their impact on skilled and unskilled laboralthough Theory Y is more frequently associated with knowledge workers.

“Theory Y is supported by a lot of behavioral research,” says Pupius. “So if your management style comes from the perspective that people are lazy and don’t want to work, you’re going to create an environment of low trust, with a lot of stress and anxiety, which will actually reduce performance. “

Surveillance-style surveillance, he says, is not the answer. But leaders still need to find ways to ensure that employees stay on track to achieve company goals. Here’s how they can do it efficiently and ethically, with tactics that can even increase productivity in the long run.

Create a control routine

Good workplace communication requires two-way trust, says Jeanine Turner, an affiliate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. It may take some time to develop this trust, but creating a consistent check-in routine with your employees – daily or weekly – can help. “Both the employer and the employee should be able to say, ‘This is what I’m doing. Is this what you want?'” she says. “Integrate into your weekly conversations to share what’s going well and what’s not.” This way, you can identify issues that could be hampering productivity and you can fix them.

Check-ins can happen as an individual process, but group check-ins can also be conducive to developing a more collaborative and team-oriented environment, adds Pupius. “Individual recordings can feel like confronting the school principal,” he says. “But when you share what you’re working on as a group, it’s more communal.”

Make goal setting a collaborative process

To track productivity, leaders must clearly set collaborative goals and expectations, Claire Schmidt, CEO and founder of the Los Angeles-based employee feedback management platform All voices. “While goals are set by managers, for their team there should be an ongoing conversation about how it’s going,” she says. “Leaders should ask themselves, ‘What are the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving these goals?'”

This can be difficult when employees feel like they can’t be open about the challenges they may be facing, which is why it can be helpful to provide multiple channels for feedback, adds Schmidt. Platforms like AllVoices offer anonymity, which can allow employees to more freely raise concerns that may impact their work, although they do not replace the regular conversations that should take place alongside .

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Poor productivity tracking fails to contextualize employee outflows, says Pupius. That’s why when setting goals, it’s important for leaders to understand the leading indicators, but focus more on the end results. “A leading indicator for a salesperson might be the number of emails they send, but that’s short-sighted. A person can send 200 bad emails, but 20 good emails can lead to more sales. “, he says. “Instead of passing judgment on measurements alone, you should be asking questions, which will then lead you to inspect and diagnose what might be going on.”

Another behind-the-scenes factor that affects productivity, he adds, is emotion. Through Range’s check-in platform, workers can jot down their overall feelings for the day with an emoji, giving leaders more context on why an employee’s output might be different from their performance. day to day – and gives employees context on how their bosses are feeling. “In a remote environment, you lack context for how people present themselves,” says Pupius. “If I’m a bit short in my emails, people may attribute it to my mood and not that I’m mad at them.”

Ultimately, this type of human interaction, as opposed to monitoring machines, is good for business. “When you build a rapport with an employee through good communication, you give them the chance to be more of a partner in your organization,” says Turner. “Then they will feel like they have more to buy.”

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