Image via WikipediaBusinessWeek ran an interesting article yesterday, Tech That Combats Employee Fraud. While I thought the article was well written, what I found most interesting was the series of comments posted by readers on the web page. One poster was incensed that companies might deploy keystroke loggers or monitor website usage of employees. Another thought it was perfectly acceptable, as we wouldn't condone watching movies all day on a DVD player or spending hours on the telephone ordering items from a Sears catalog.
I think these people are missing the point.
Culture is Key
Technology should be an enabler, supporting the strategies and tactics employed to meet corporate objectives. When combating fraud, fostering and maintaining an environment of integrity, honesty and ethical decision-making is far more important than deploying technology to inhibit or root out misconduct. The Ethics Resource Center's National Workplace Ethics Survey clearly shows that having a positive work environment strongly correlates to minimizing misconduct.
So How Much Big Brother?
The other comment I'd make relates to management philosophy on how much monitoring is necessary. I'll leave it to the lawyers to argue where and when the line is crossed when infringing on the right to privacy for employees. But my own personal management style is to set expectations, and then let my reports live into them. At the end of the day, I care whether the work is done - with high quality - and that my employees act with integrity and respect for others and follow our code of conduct. Since I have no issue if they work long hours - including weekends - I don't really feel that I should have an issue with them taking time to view Youtube, update their Facebook accounts, shop online, IM, or other activities that others believe shouldn't be done on "company" time. In my mind, the lines between "company" and "personal" time have blurred.
If I have an employee who chooses to not to live up to our agreed upon objectives and expectations, then I have a management problem that I need to correct. Similarly, if they break the law, or violate our code of conduct, then I will take appropriate actions. Technology may help me identify these adverse situations, augmenting the culture I help set for our employees, but in the end, I hold myself accountable for hiring great people, treating them with respect and allowing them to be professionals.
What do you think? What is the "right" amount of employee monitoring?