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Workforce Monitoring Isn't as Scary as it Sounds

David Bloom
David Bloom
GM, Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Group at Sterling

Conducting a pre-hire background check may not be sufficient for businesses. Many monitor workers for legal and safety reasons. Learn what workforce monitoring is and how it can benefit your busines

Businesses have no shortage of policies in place to protect their customers and their bottom line. Yet when it comes to workforce monitoring, many employers are missing the full picture. Research from HR.com revealed that of 1,528 human resources professionals surveyed, 96% reported that their company conducts a background screening on candidates. However, after employees are hired, that attention to detail can shift elsewhere, such as spending limitations, privacy training and travel requirements, or it may disappear altogether. There's a risk in running one check and never monitoring your employees again.

Building trust with your team 

If you ran a background check when your employee started, and he or she consistently shows up and contributes without conflict, everything is good, right? Well, not quite. Some factors can't be confirmed through observation or regular one-on-ones, and ignorance is not bliss. That's why a growing number of companies are establishing post-hire monitoring.

If visions of cameras and keyboard readers come to mind, let me dispel those concerns. Workforce monitoring serves as a reliable step to ensure that necessary information, like license status, driver records, and criminal activity, is checked regularly.

Companies in the transportation industry run annual checks on driver records to evaluate safety and potential risk. However, that leaves about 11 months and 29 days of open time in between. If a delivery driver is involved in two at-fault car accidents, they may not be discovered until the following year. And for companies without follow-up screenings, these incidents wouldn't be discovered.

Ongoing employee monitoring is especially important for businesses whose employees work with people, especially minors. What happens if an employee at a daycare center is charged with assault and the employer, who is unaware, does not take action? Incidents like these affect people and businesses beyond the immediate situation. Consider the impact on the daycare and the trustworthiness of the brand. Once that trust is broken for customers and families, it can be nearly impossible to recover from.

That's an extreme case. Some things slip, like license renewals, which is why employers are seeking ways to track compliance and avoid uncertainty when it comes issues that increase their risk of liability.

How can we keep up to date on the important issues to protect our brand and our customers without impacting employee privacy?

What is workforce monitoring?

Workforce monitoring is technology that actively tracks your employees' behavior, performance and backgrounds. Businesses often turn to workforce monitoring to maintain legal compliance, data security and employee productivity.

You can monitor your workforce through various means, like background check services and employee monitoring software; many businesses use a combination of both.

Editor's note: Looking for the right employee monitoring solution for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

 

Background checks

Using the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources, daily background monitoring checks only the information you care about to help reduce the risk of corporate litigation, professional license lapses and fraud.

Companies provide lists of employees that fall underneath the scope of monitoring. Providing these lists, and keeping them up to date, has traditionally been a challenging, manual process, but technical innovation is easing this administrative burden. The monitoring provider then automatically enrolls your employees in the desired services. Monitoring is then continually synching with the latest employee list, and if there's a problem, you receive an alert to review the issue immediately. 

Comprehensive monitoring programs offer the following services, which can be adapted to a business's specific needs.

  • Criminal activity. Monitoring programs can integrate with booking and incarceration records across the United States.
  • Driver records. Employers can maintain trust with drivers and delivery personnel due to integrations with states' Department of Motor Vehicle databases. Whether employees have commercial or non-commercial licenses, the system can identify changes to an individual's motor vehicle record and promptly notify employers of accidents or misconduct.
  • Healthcare sanctions and exclusions. Hospitals and medical facilities can implement a program that regularly scans several sanctions and exclusions lists to identify medical professionals working outside legal limits. Screening providers scour the Office of Inspector General's List of Excluded Individuals and Entities, the General Services Administration's System for Award Management database and State Medicaid Exclusion Lists for potential violators.
  • Medical license status. Beyond sanctions, healthcare organizations must remain vigilant of expired or revoked licenses, as well as board actions. This crucial feature alerts employers so that swift action can be taken to renew licenses or terminate work with unlicensed providers.
  • Liens, judgments and bankruptcies. Financial services companies can monitor tax liens, civil judgments and bankruptcies so they can provide proper disclosures to regulators in a timely fashion and avoid financial penalties.

Employee monitoring software

You can effectively track and record your employees' daily activity and productivity with employee monitoring software. This software runs in the background of company devices (desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices, etc.) to provide insight into how employees are spending their workdays. For example, you can track employee web browsing history, application usage, keyboard and mouse activity, and more.

Businesses use employee monitoring software for several reasons, although generally they are most concerned about security and productivity. You can monitor how proprietary information and company data is being used, and you can quickly identify if workers are viewing malicious websites or clicking on any damaging links. Additionally, viewing user activity can identify high performers, as well as areas for improvement.

Continuous, real-time screening allows companies to stay updated without devoting an entire position or team to the process, something that is unrealistic for smaller businesses. You set up a program and it runs independently in the background. This can free up the bandwidth of your HR team to address growth and employee development.

However, your team may object to being tracked. Before implementing employee monitoring tools, discuss these matters with your employees. Explain your reasoning and listen to them. A productive discussion between you and your workers can result in mutual understanding and an arrangement that satisfies both sides' needs and concerns.

Benefits of workforce monitoring

There are several benefits of workforce monitoring, including:

  • Safety. Continuously verifying that your employees are who they say they are can protect your company, employees and customers.
  • Security. Monitoring employee behavior can reduce potential risks like data breaches or malicious web activity.
  • Legal compliance. Monitoring employee background aspects such as criminal activity, driving records and professional licensing doesn't jeopardize your business's compliance with federal, state and industry regulations.
  • Company reputation. Workforce monitoring can help ensure you have quality employees on your team, which can improve your company's reputation.
  • Employee productivity. Reviewing employee activity can improve productivity by identifying weak points where improvement can be made.
  • HR assistance. Using software to monitor your workforce can save your HR team countless hours of tedious work.
  • Cost savings. Workforce monitoring can save businesses money on several fronts. You're not paying employees for hours they didn't work, plus you reduce your risk of having to pay expensive legal fees for noncompliance (or other potential risks).

Pre-hire background checks are critical, but they represent a moment in time, a snapshot. Continuous workforce monitoring is like insurance for your hiring decisions.

Businesses in nearly every industry can benefit from a workforce monitoring solution, including healthcare providers whose employees interact with patients, finance companies whose executives have access to clients' financial information, transportation contractors who ferry passengers, and childcare staff who work with minors.

The gig economy provides a clear example as well. Gig companies have implemented workforce monitoring programs, which identify dangerous behavior, like car accidents, DUIs or assaults. Near-instant alerts notify leadership of incidents, putting the control in the employers' hands.

These types of events are important knowledge for risk assessment and customer safety. With ongoing monitoring of relevant data sources, employers get the information they need to protect customers and employees.

Employer considerations

To respect employee privacy while managing the security concerns of your company, having the right policies in place is critical. Implementing an ethical solution requires transparent, well-documented policies that make priorities clear to employees and keep the focus on safety, not scrutiny.

Consult with an attorney who can help you set reasonable guidelines and put a plan together you can share with your workforce.

Compliance

Companies need to abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws, and state and local laws. Beyond the law, however, mindful companies can take steps to enable sound policies that encourage open communication with, and from, employees.

Policies

One policy that employers should establish is a self-reporting policy. This policy should identify which employees or positions fall under the purview of monitoring and what types of events need to be reported.

Communication

Communication is essential when implementing a workforce monitoring policy. Upon learning that you plan to implement monitoring, employees will likely feel hurt. They may view your actions as a lack of trust. Therefore, talk to employees about what solutions you intend to implement and the reasons behind each. If you can get buy-in from your employees from the start, they are less likely to respond negatively.

Additional reporting by Skye Schooley.

 

Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock
David Bloom
David Bloom
business.com Member
David Bloom is General Manager of the Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Group at Sterling, the global leader in employment background screening solutions. David was included in Entrepreneur Magazine's Brilliant 100 and on Business Insider’s list of 100 most interesting people in the NYC tech scene. David holds a BA degree from Bates College and an MBA from Cornell University.