Home

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

What Type of Employee Monitoring System Do You Need?

Simone Johnson
Simone Johnson
Staff writer

Find out about the different types of employee monitoring tools you can use to keep your employees stay on task.

An employee monitoring system uses surveillance tools to track worker activity and promote productivity. There are several different methods employers can use to check on their staff. With these tools, employers can observe the amount of time employees spend using different applications, see which websites were visited during work hours, and identify issues in workflow. 

What are the different ways companies monitor their employees?

Here's an overview of the different types of workplace monitoring tools you can use to keep tabs on your team. 

Time tracking

On average, employees steal 4.5 work hours a week from employers by not working when they say they are. That translates to 20 cents for every dollar earned.

Using automated time and attendance systems, though, you accurately record the number of hours employees work. Paper timesheets leave room for dishonesty and error, because people can write down times they didn't work. More sophisticated biometric time-punching solutions protect your business against buddy punching, which is when an employee clocks in for another employee who isn't at work.

Keystroke logging

Keylogging software records the keystrokes your employees type on company devices and electronic communications. Essentially, you can track what they type and set alerts for certain language or phrases you'd like to be aware of.

GPS tracking

If your business is in the delivery industry or provides company cars to workers, GPS tracking is ideal for checking the location of your drivers. It's also a timesaver – instead of calling or texting your employees about their whereabouts, you can check their status through the tracking program. 

Video surveillance

This tool observes employees to ensure they're working productively. It can also protect your business against theft and vandalism, especially during nonbusiness hours.

Website browsing 

With website tracking tools, you can see employees' browser histories. You can see the sites an employee visits and how long they spent on each one.   

Application monitoring

You can track everything your employees do on downloaded applications and software programmed into company devices. You're also able to access saved documents and data within those programs.

Email tracking

Email tracking lets you see the messages received and sent by your employees. Investing in software that creates daily backups also gives you access to every employee's deleted or archived messages.

"These are tracked to ensure employees are not doing any harm to the company," said Sophie Summers, human resources manager at ProPrivacy. "The files shared from the employees' accounts are also scanned to see they are not leaking the company's sensitive data to a third party."

Social media tracking

This type of monitoring tool allows you to view information shared on social media accounts. You can also see what instant messages are being sent back and forth on these channels.  Some employee monitoring software translates this data into graphs or other visuals so you know just how much time employees spend on social media sites. 

"Advanced tools are present now to scan every type of information an employee sends over the internet," Summers said. "Network analyzers are responsible for scanning networks for prohibited content and could also identify the originating workstation."

Keycards

Keycards make it easy to see when employees enter the building or various locations within the workplace. If keycards are used to access locations and devices, it becomes easy to see where employees are going and get an idea of what they are doing throughout the day.

With RFIDs, keycards can do significantly more. The RFID technology allows the keycards to interact with monitoring equipment in a number of ways. It becomes possible to see where employees are at all times during the workday. This allows you to keep up with attendance and workflow. You can also use keycards to access computer terminals or other essential equipment to see what tools your employees are using. 

Network monitoring

As the name indicates, network monitoring keeps track of traffic through your company's computer networks. This allows you to monitor basic metrics with ease. Each employee has to use a specific logon ID with any device on the network, so you can see when and where they are connected.

Beyond the basics, network monitoring allows you to track employee behavior in uniquely important ways. Digital security relies more on employee behavior than any of your advanced security systems. Your network monitoring system allows you to identify and flag risky behavior as soon as it emerges. In this way, your employee monitoring system is spotting behavior that puts the whole company at risk.

You can also use network monitoring to get a feel for productivity. Not all improper network behavior is risky. By keeping tabs on the network, you can see how often employees are using their computers for tasks not related to work. Network monitoring rolls attendance, behavior monitoring, cybersecurity and productivity tracking into one monitoring system.

Project management apps

Jayson DeMers, owner of the employee monitoring app EmailAnalytics, recommends using project management software to track employee activity on individual assignments or tasks. Project management apps aren't considered an employee monitoring solution per se, but they can help you achieve the same goal.

You can break down tasks for each team member and follow their workflow without requesting updates. Summaries of employees' progress are provided, which helps you manage your team without pouring hours into reminder emails or briefing meetings.

Its scheduling and task management features let employees know what your expectations are. It's a great hands-off approach that allows you to examine your team's work ethic and activity without having to communicate with them directly.

Editor's note: Need employee monitoring software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Why do businesses monitor their employees? 

Your business, and its future viability, rely on the quality of work your employees produce. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that operations run smoothly so you can deliver quality goods and services – on time – to your customers.

"Employees' productivity plays a crucial role in the business's future, revenue, goal completion, and client satisfaction rate," Summers said. "If a company wants to stay stable, grow and excel in the market, then keeping their employees on the right track is necessary."

Implementing a workplace monitoring system is not only about catching wayward employees; it ensures that your staff is aware of your expectations and that you're paying attention to the activity within your company.

What are the benefits of monitoring workers? 

Through employee tracking software and monitoring practices, your business gains better security and improved productivity. Here are some important considerations for business owners.

Productivity

Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that employees worked more efficiently when knew they were being monitored, which in turn increased profits 7%. When employees are aware their activity is being watched by their employer, they are more mindful of their behavior and the work they produce.

Data security

Your company data, such as private business files, account login details, and customer records, are sensitive pieces of information that you can't afford to lose in the hands of the wrong people. Employee monitoring tools help you review employee interactions with this data so you can ensure it is not being misused.

"Sometimes, employees will abuse their power to access and use data they shouldn't, and possibly leak it online or to competitors," said Pat Stanley, a Safeguarde workplace and employee monitoring expert. "By monitoring employees, businesses can help protect their data from being exposed by its own staff."

Examine workflow

The insights you gain from workplace surveillance can be used to make better decisions for your company and identify errors or changes you need to make.

"By a company reviewing employee work activities and devices on a regular basis, any flaws in employee productivity can be uncovered and improved upon," Stanley said.

For example, you may learn that certain assignments do better with fewer employees or that some team members are more useful on some projects than others. You may also discover who your unmotivated employees are.

This information can be used not only to check whether employees are working but to further assess their overall performance. Evaluating this type of data helps you spot errors or issues before they become harmful to your business, which allows you to make good choices for your company.

Image Credit: fizkes / Getty Images
Simone Johnson
Simone Johnson
business.com Staff
Simone Johnson is a business.com and Business News Daily writer who has covered a range of financial topics for small businesses, including on how to obtain critical startup funding and best practices for processing payroll. Simone has researched and analyzed many products designed to help small businesses properly manage their finances, including accounting software and small business loans. In addition to her financial writing for business.com and Business News Daily, Simone has written previously on personal finance topics for HerMoney Media.