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Employee Spying VS. Accountability

Recently, a Fortune 500 company terminated over 600 employees for not logging into work while “working remotely”, some of whom didn’t have any activity for months over the summer. The company essentially used a program to “spy” on employees to see if they were working. Clearly the technology exists to monitor your every key stroke, track you on a map, and can extend to your company issued laptop or apps deployed on your personal phone.

One employee was terminated for operating a real estate business on the side and performing house showings around the city during the day, when they were supposed to be working at their primary corporate administrator job.

Operating an IT managed services operation supporting thousands of people across the globe, we truly understand what it means for employee remote support. We also have the capability for remote monitoring and control of devices and applications. However, is it legal, ethical, or an invasion of privacy? There will always be plenty of debate over this topic, which is why we advocate with each of our clients to focus on building a culture of trust and accountability.

This can be difficult in a multi-generational workforce that also works remotely. However, our management consulting and employee development has worked with clients to help deploy these leading practices:

  1. Recruiting – Set expectations at the start around the number of days in the office, position responsibilities, and how performance is measured are key. However, doing so will not work if there is not regular feedback and communication. Companies often say they set expectations up front, but the regular follow-up and communications are lacking, especially in a remote workforce with newer generations less accustomed to in-office work. Social media and distancing have magnified the lack of employee feedback.
  2. All-Remote Work Does Not Work – Post pandemic it has become increasingly difficult to bring people back to the office. However, a full remote workforce introduces several complexities:
    • People feel distant from their co-workers and the company.
    • Employees working from home can easily switch to another company with remote working or they can easily facilitate a “side” business or sometimes work for multiple employers.
    • There is no sense of belonging and distractions are easy.
    • Out of sight, out of mind – The employee feels forgotten and the employer often forgets.
  3. Celebrate the career wins of your people – It is important to celebrate the good things people do regardless of how small or big. It reinforces positive behaviors and keeps people engaged and focus on a common goal and purpose. More importantly, it fosters a sense of belonging. It is also important to celebrate these wins in person in the office rather than on a video call.
  4. Lead by example – Leadership needs to demonstrate accountability in their own role. If employees are expected to be in the office for a few days, then management should be present as well. If the examples are not visible among management and the executive office, then employees’ interest and support of the company wanes.
  5. Create personal connections – Since the pandemic our world has become more distant and artificial walls are created from computer screen to mobile devices. Socialization is important when creating a culture of accountability.
  6. Goals need to be clearly defined and measurable – Companies stating they measure output are not doing enough. For example, if you are only measuring the number of calls a salesperson makes, and not looking at the results from those calls, then that person will meet the target every time. Measuring output does not create a sense of belonging. Measurable goals need to be focused on how the person generates value for the business. This creates a connection between the employee and the company and sets an expectation. Second, feedback and developmental support should be provided to further foster the interest in the person and more importantly nurturing their personal success.

Technology can be used to monitor employees and ultimately hold them accountable, but what have you gained in the end other than a terminated employee who you already invested so much time and money on? You lost from the day that employee was hired by not creating a culture of trust and developing employee value. Accountability and performance are automatic byproducts when an employee feels a sense of belonging and is motivated to contribute to the company’s value.

Sagin, LLC is a Management Consulting and IT Managed Services firm focused on creating measurable value for its clients through: Technology, Change Management, Human Capital Development and Risk Management. To learn more, visit us at or or +1.312.281.0290.

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