As remote work continues to skyrocket due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more companies are turning to employee tracking software in an attempt to measure employee productivity.

And they’re killing morale in the process.

I recently came across a fascinating report on CNBC entitled, How Employers Could Be Spying On You While Working From Home. (I highly recommend watching the full video when you have a chance, which is slightly less than 15 minutes.) The report highlights some of the reasons why (bad) employers feel a need to turn to such software. 

But the most fascinating part of the report are the statements from the leaders of companies that produce the tracking software. As they promote their products and management philosophy, it’s amazing to me that they don’t realize how ridiculous it all sounds.

Sam Naficy is CEO of Prodoscore, one company that produces such employee tracking software. Naficy may be a very nice guy, but I strongly disagree with the philosophy his company puts forward.

After describing the capabilities of his company’s software, which draws from a number of data points purported to measure employee productivity, Naficy proceeds to explain:

“We use AI tools to massage that into a real-time score that you see as does your boss and the CEO and the VP of Sales and the chief revenue officer. Everyone is seeing the productivity. Every morning you come to your desk, you have an email from us. You have your productivity score; your prodoscore is on the first line of the email. Your score yesterday for prodoscore was 74. Your colleagues were 90. They’ve done more. And it’s a tool that you could gauge yourself against your peers.”

Yikes. I’m not even sure where to begin.

Basically, this philosophy:

  • Reduces people to a single number
  • Reaches that number based, not on results achieved, but on how much time you spend opening software and clicking buttons on a computer
  • Encourages employees to compare their value with their peers–based on how much time they’ve spent opening software and clicking buttons on a computer 
  • Is predicated on the belief that employees will be motivated by fear–fear of their boss, their boss’s boss, and the big boss

Now, let’s compare this with another philosophy. Just two months ago I wrote about a brilliant new remote work policy announced by Siemens Deputy CEO Roland Busch, one that “focuses on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office,” and that “trust[s] our employees and empower[s] them to shape their work themselves so that they can achieve the best possible results.”

So, let me ask you: Which employer would you prefer to work for?

The one who feels the need to track your every move? The one that measures your worth based on how “busy” you appear to be?

Or the one that focuses on outcomes? The one that trusts and empowers you as an employee?

The answer is obvious. But it’s also a lesson in emotional intelligence–a quality that is sadly still lacking among many employers today.

What’s emotional intelligence got to do with it?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. It includes being able to cultivate and manage quality relationships.

This is so vital in the workplace, and especially in the current post-pandemic world, because the tendency is to reduce people to “productivity scores” and micromanage all they do. To imagine that they are all sitting in their pajamas watching Netflix. Or, as one executive put it, that they are “taking a Covid-19 vacation.”

In contrast, research proves that people thrive when there is trust. 

For example, in EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I tell the story of Google’s “Project Aristotle,” the company’s quest to find out what makes teams successful. After analyzing dozens of teams and interviewing hundreds of executives, team leads, and team members, Google found that the single greatest factor contributing to a team’s success was what psychologists refer to as “psychological safety.” 

In a team with high psychological safety, managers (and teammates) trust each other to do their work. They don’t double check at what time they do their work, or how many hours it takes them to do their work, or even exactly how they do their work. They simply trust them to get the job done.

In other words, they focus on results.

After all, if an employee produces great outcomes, do you really care how many hours it took them to do so?

But how do you keep your people motivated if you’re together in the office?

The same way you would if you were together. Namely, by:

1. Staying in regular communication with your people. Yes, about work, but also about their lives in general.

2. Clearly outlining work scope and expectations.

3. Establishing team norms, including expected response times for messages.

4. Being consistent with your own example.

5. Offering sincere and specific praise for things done right.

6. Offering constructive feedback for things done wrong–but with positive (helpful) intent.

7. Coaching through problems, instead of micromanaging.

8. Allowing flexibility for employees to work when and where they feel most comfortable and productive.

9. Giving employees freedom to explore ideas, take (smart) risks, and learn from mistakes.

So, if you’re an employer who is considering going remote, or a team lead who manages a remote team, please remember:

Employee tracking may be tempting, but in the long run, it will do more harm than good. Instead of trying to track your employees’ every move, focus on results. 

And as you strive to give your team the freedom and flexibility they crave, you’ll build trust and loyalty in the process–helping your people become the best versions of themselves.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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