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Sep 27, 2022

Yesterday we brought you John Hollon’s overall assessment of what he regarded as a very uplifting HR Tech 22.

But TLNT regular Brett Farmiloe was also there – and he picked up on the far less cheery fact that employers are increasingly using (and talking about using) technology to monitor their staff – including counting employee keystrokes to determine productivity and compensation. This was especially-so, he observed, due to the mass rise of remote working.

So is the world of work really ready for such intrusive interventions?

To find out TLNT asked Farmiloe to canvass delegates at the show for their views on this.

Here are seven perspectives gleaned about employee productivity metrics vs employee morale:

  • Productivity should be based on deliverables not on presence
  • There may be a place for tracking software
  • Employee productivity is not measured in keystrokes
  • Productivity does not have to mean burnout
  • Build trust and empathy with your employees rather than micro-managing
  • Today’s organizations reap the culture they sow
  • Low employee morale is killing employee productivity

Productivity should be based on deliverables not on presence

“Are employee productivity metrics killing employee morale? Absolutely! To feel psychologically safe, and feel valued and respected, requires trust. How can an employee feel like they are valued when their boss insists on measuring how much they are typing in a day? I believe productivity should be based on deliverables – not on presence. It’s ridiculous that employers across the country are requiring their teams to be active at all times on their messaging apps or respond immediately to test emails to confirm attendance. I’ve even heard of some companies requiring their employees to be on camera for the full eight-hour day – just so managers can make sure their working from home, chained to their desk. Would you see positive morale in a situation like that? I know I wouldn’t. In a competitive talent market, don’t be the company that treats their employees like children in a Big Brother-like dystopia.” – Eric Mochnacz, senior HR consultant, Red Clover

There may be a place for tracking software

“Personally, I’ve had quite a few applicants tell me that they actually enjoy being tracked at work. If you’re a quiet or introverted person, you might be relieved to no longer have to toot your own horn, so to speak. Instead, your work speaks for itself. Recently, I spoke to a female applicant who felt she’d been passed over for promotions due to her gender. After her company started tracking their activity, management took a new interest in her, and she was finally offered the role she’d coveted. In her case, tracking software eliminated bias from the system.” – Linn Atiyeh, founder and CEO, Bemana

Employee productivity is not measured in keystrokes

“Employee productivity metrics are absolutely killing employee morale. I do not believe that you can count employee “keystrokes” to determine productivity and compensation. An employee’s productivity cannot be counted by just their “keystrokes” as they can still be working if they are talking to another employee or customer. They can also be using the telephone or calculator. Employees also bounce ideas off each other in the office or on the telephone which cannot be counted.” – Lindsey Hight HR professional, Sporting Smiles

Productivity does not have to mean burnout

“When productivity and metrics come together, some might picture endless overwork, hustling cultures and increased stress levels. In some organizations, this is very much the case – that to achieve more productivity, our health and satisfaction in our work must suffer. But this is not how it’s supposed to be. Smarter organizations carefully balance productivity and employee wellness and joy. This is because workloads and performance are measured based on output and the quality of people’s work rather than how many hours everyone clocks each day. Team members will thrive in a flexible environment that promotes breaks and deep work time. This is when staff feel they can look after their health and perform to a high standard.” – Shauna Moran, founder, Operate Remote

Build trust and empathy with your employees rather than micro-managing

“Knowledge work cannot be monitored like a production line. Keystrokes do not mean the output the employee is producing is worthwhile. Employees will always game a system they feel is unfair. That’s why sales for ‘mouse jigglers’ are rising sold rapidly. You’d do far better building trust and empathy with your employees – by investing in their development and optimizing the work they do for the skills they have and are interested in building. This, of course, requires a future-focused coach/leader mindset, not a micromanaging, transactional management mindset. If morale is being killed, the chances are management needs to look in the mirror and consider what skills they need to improve.” – Nola Simon, hybrid & remote work futurist, Nola Simon Advisory

Today’s organizations reap the culture they sow

“As a consultant, I work with a variety of organizations: remote-First; hybrid and on-site. I recently encountered a remote-first organization that (1) counts hours worked as productivity (managers’ report working 12-15 hours/day), and (2) runs the organization as a factory (with firm productivity metrics), for front-line employees. But guess what? Morale is low, engagement is low. Participation in “opt-in” professional development is less than 10% because there’s concern that attendance will negatively impact their “metrics.” Turnover is one of the highest I’ve seen in any industry. This environment is extreme but not unusual today. Hire adults, compensate fairly, help people find/build meaning and purpose in their role, and offer (and encourage), opportunities for growth and development. Most people want to do their best every day and absolutely can if organizations extend trust and provide people with the tools and resources to do so.” – Elizabeth Boyd, workplace experience consultant, TalentLab.Live

Low employee morale is killing employee productivity

“Too many companies say they care about their culture, but don’t actually support their people. And that’s where the culture begins – with people. Culture is how you treat your people, how you engage with your people, how you nurture your people, and what you offer them as a benefit to deliver their best work with confidence, clarity, and a sense of pride. When your people win, everyone wins.” – Wendy Ellin, president, The 25th Hour, Inc.

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