Once again, sadly, we’re entering a period of uncertainty and recession. Budgets are stretched, profit margins squeezed. People’s productivity at work matters more than ever, as we head into a stormy 2023. EX (employee experience) and CX (customer experience) strategies are being adapted accordingly. But is change being implemented in ways that won’t stir up trouble?
When it comes to EX, there has seemingly been a knee-jerk reaction from some business leaders. Those whose employees are working remotely or on a hybrid arrangement between office and home. Leaders are moving away from trusting their people to checking up, ever more insistently, on what’s being done. This has been demonstrated by the increasing popularity of employee monitoring software.
Beware of the ‘checking up’ culture
To track employee productivity, new technologies have come into play:
- Instant messaging apps that identify ‘active’ or ‘offline’ statuses
- Computer screen and video surveillance
- GPS monitoring
- ‘Smart’ seat cushions that track health metrics
A 2022 survey found that approximately 68% of North American employers with at least 500 employees utilise some form of employee monitoring software. Similar take-up is being seen across Europe.
My view is that an over-reliance on these tools will soon become problematic. To begin with, there are potential legal issues. These include invasion of privacy, unfair labour practices, discrimination, unpaid wages and overtime, and workplace injuries.
Distrust leading to lower morale is another problem to watch for. Leaders and HR teams reaching for the spyware are failing to address the root cause of dwindling productivity. Often the underlying problem is poor organisational design and management, coupled with a lack of clarity and weak communication. This leaves home workers feeling disengaged, isolated and siloed.
Tool up for the tougher times
To boost worker efficiency, mid-level managers need to be provided with the tools and skills for clear and empathetic goal-setting and accountability. Every member of a team needs to have an explicit understanding of what the company is aiming for and how their team is important in reaching that goal. All this must be communicated in ways that will engage rather than alienate.
The key to a successful remote work environment and excellent EX is trust. Businesses must be more practical and accessible in their monitoring methods if they want to earn this. Managers who don’t have direct visibility into their employees’ work tend to mistrust them, even if these individuals do well in their daily work. These misunderstandings can lead to resentment, low employee satisfaction, and high attrition rates.
Monitoring software can undoubtedly play a role – especially if organisations are transparent about their policies. But they can only be part of the EX as we ride the rapids of the recession. Employees accept being monitored if there is a clear goal and no hidden intentions. They will trust their managers far more if the monitoring is combined with regular check-ins – be that on Zoom or in person.
Focus on employee wellbeing
Did you know that 82% of employees diagnosed with mental health illness never inform their managers at the workplace? This is a red flag. Leaders must be approachable and empathetic. If your employees feel you care about their wellbeing at all times, they’ll feel highly valued. Those who feel valued will value your business more, perform well, and remain loyal.
Again, regular check-ins will keep you up to speed with how your employees are feeling and performing. Doing so might improve their day, help them find a solution to a problem, or influence how they feel in the future.
Fire up the feedback
Feedback is the key to growth and one of the most important skills a manager can implement. Employees always need feedback as it directly influences the way they feel. You can start by setting up regular review sessions in order to improve employee engagement.
While this may sound time-consuming to the busy middle-manager, it will definitely be worth it in the long-run. The best managers should be willing and able to report how their employees are performing for the best of the company, and its future.