Understanding the Real Purpose of Employee Monitoring Software  

Technology is an intricate and inextricable part of the modern workforce. It enables fresh opportunities, invites in new markets, and encourages innovation. In 2018 and for the foreseeable future, it remains the conduit for building compelling companies.

Of course, that reality has all kinds of caveats. While it’s essential for companies to capitalize on the many possibilities presented by the digital age, they need to reduce the risks that accompany this digital ethos. More specifically, data privacy and security have become dangerous minefields that companies must navigate with skill and precision.

The cost of failure in this regard is cascading, including extensive up-front costs to repair the damage of a data breach and the continual burden of reputational harm that may never fully be repaired.

With malicious and unsanctioned data exfiltration from the workplace serving as one of the most potent causes of a data loss event, companies are pursuing many options for facilitating a tech-centered business approach that enhances rather than compromises their company’s growth potential.

As a result, employee monitoring software is making a big comeback. For IT administrators, it is a unique weapon in the battle over data security.

While some balk at its reemergence, fearful of privacy violations or skeptical of the notion of accountability, in reality, the practicality of employee monitoring software is much more optimistic.

Seeing Is Not Spying

Despite the rhetoric-driven, inflammatory remarks of some technology publications, employee monitoring software is not a tool for bosses to spy on their employees. In August, Wired published a brief expose on employee monitoring software, deploying the incendiary title “The Creative Ways Your Boss Is Spying on You” to discredit this approach to data protection.

The article insinuates that companies are spying on their employees, using monitoring software to evaluate social media habits and other distracting behavior while building a ludicrous report card on an employee’s value.

Missing the software’s true purpose, Wired implies that employee monitoring software is a big brother-like overreach that is creepy and ineffective.

In reality, with modern employee monitoring software, 1984 is not making an appearance in 2018.

Perhaps most obviously, to assume that employee monitoring is a weapon for spying on employees is to misunderstand the expansiveness of the digital age. In nearly every way, using monitoring software as a tool for spying on employees is not effective, not useful, and not comprehensive. Virtually everyone has a smartphone that serves as a veritable workaround that allows them to text, scroll, and tweet outside of the purview of any employer.

This powerful software isn’t about tracking employees’ Facebook feeds or logging every cat meme that they view.

Naturally, that begs the question: if employee monitoring software isn’t for spying on employees, what purpose does it serve?

The Real Purpose of Employee Monitoring Software

Employee monitoring software pursues several objectives related to data security and efficiency. Comprehensive monitoring software can:

Ensure Compliance

After years of a lawless, wild west digital environment, governments are increasingly enacting laws and regulations to protect user data. Major legislative actions like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation places significant ownness on companies to secure the information that they collect from customers. Other measures like HIPAA guidelines that moderate data in the healthcare industry or California’s forthcoming privacy law, place significant responsibility on companies to protect their customers’ data.

Ensuring compliance requires a holistic approach to data management that includes guarding against external threats and preventing internal data misuse. Employee monitoring software allows companies to reign activities that can compromise user data and preserve regulatory compliance and improve data security at the same time.

Stop Malicious Exfiltration Attempts

A recent study by Gartner captures the scope of the data loss landscape. Among the survey’s many discoveries, Gartner found that some employees are misusing company data to generate a second income and others are intentionally stealing information on their way out the door. In addition, as a Cisco study reveals, 70% of data loss events are caused by unauthorized software, and nearly half are linked to file transfers by remote workers.

The capabilities of modern software allow companies to take action if an employee accesses data at unusual times or from different locations, both red flags when guarding against data exfiltration. Furthermore, companies can prevent employees from accessing unauthorized data sets or from transmitting that data through cloud storage or other means of offloading information.

In the battle against data theft, it’s a valuable weapon that IT personnel should have at their disposal.

Achieve Process Optimization

As anyone who has ever escaped the burden of a complicated task by scrolling through his or her favorite social media feed understands, what technology gives, it takes away as well. Distraction and misprioritization are rampant in the digital age.

Interestingly, employees hate this as much as employers. According to The Economist, “Distraction also appears to reduce reported happiness, and that effect may be magnified if it means that fewer tasks are completed to the workers’ satisfaction—or if the source of the distraction is another distressing news alert.”

Moreover, employees want boundaries. They want tools to help them combat this constant distraction that destroys productivity. Employee monitoring software can be that tool, identifying pain points while equipping employers and employees to make needed changes.

The result is good for everyone. A study by educational platform Udemy found that, when distractions were reduced, more than half of employees were happier, more motivated, and more confident in their work and themselves.

The Bottom Line

Obviously, employee monitoring software serves many legitimate purposes within a modern organization, and none of them involve spying on employees.

Rather, it is a useful tool for combating data loss while maximizing efficiency, and to overlook these capabilities is to misinterpret our current technological moment.  

Especially when coupled with clear expectations and growth mindset, employee monitoring software protects the employer and the employee with the possibility for significant gains for both parties, and to dismiss its efficacy is ignorant and short-sighted.

Technology is a critical component of the modern work environment, and it’s more valuable when transparency and integrity are an integral part of its adoption.