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Today, businesses have access to software programs that track employee performance and behavior, from calculating the average employee’s number of sick days taken in a given year to monitoring where they walk throughout the building in a day. On the surface, these tracking systems can tell you a lot about how your employees are working, fault points in your processes and supervision, and even employee safety, but there are some important limitations to these types of technology.

What Employee Tracking Can’t Tell You

Employee tracking can’t tell you everything. These are just some of the important factors that modern employee monitoring software won’t reveal or describe:

  • Root causes of low morale. Your software may be able to tell you that employee morale is low, due to a drop in performance, but it can’t tell you why morale is low. It might be because your latest software addition has terrible UI, or maybe your employees are sad they haven’t gotten to take a trip to Myrtle Beach on vacation recently.
  • Personal conflicts. Employee tracking may be able to tell you how your employees are working, but it can’t tell you how they feel while they’re working. They may have trouble initiating teamwork, or may dislike some of their supervisors—if you rely exclusively on objective performance metrics, you might not know until it’s too late.
  • Subjective contributions to collective productivity. If one employee puts in more tracked hours than another, you might assume they’re working harder or doing more for the company. But what about untracked hours? What about contributions that can’t be easily tracked, such as morale boosts or collaboration and teamwork?
  • Strategies for improvement. Finally, employee tracking software is good at helping you identify problems, but it’s not as good at making recommendations for how to improve. Even the best software product still requires an analyst to step in and form actionable conclusions that can benefit the company.

Other Concerns

The limitations of employee tracking software aren’t all based on the types of information you can and can’t glean from it. You’ll also need to consider these factors:

  • Additional stress. Introducing a new method of employee tracking and monitoring will undoubtedly introduce more stress within the group. When people are watched and judged, they feel additional pressure; and yes, that pressure may foster some short-term productivity gains, but is it worth it if your employees end up quitting due to the increased stress? This is an extreme scenario, but it’s worth considering.
  • Ethical questions. You’ll also need to consider some ethical questions—including legal interpretations of employee monitoring. For example, ordinarily, if you notice an employee is taking too long of a break, you may reprimand them. But if you take disciplinary action against an employee whose long breaks are a result of a physical disability or injury, that could be grounds for a discrimination suit. You’ll need to proceed with caution in what systems you use and how you use them.

The Bottom Line

Employee tracking and monitoring isn’t perfect, but it can be a helpful tool. Accordingly, it’s best used as a component of your HR strategy, rather than the beginning and the end of it.

Despite some of its limitations, employee tracking software has become vital for managing employee costs, morale, and overall profitability. If you’re interested in seeing how this type of software fits in with your business, be sure to investigate SAP’s workforce management systems, which are capable of fostering up to 40 percent higher productivity.

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