Thursday, May 11th 2023

Employee Monitoring or Employee Surveying?

Employee Survey Software

The Right Tools for Understanding Employees

A study by Front Public Health titled ‘Well-Being in Life and Well-Being at Work: Which Comes First?’ states that work is just one area to enhance individual well-being, however, given the amount of time spent at work over our lifetimes, it could be the most powerful one. An organization can improve employee engagement by implementing many programs discussed in previous blogs, but how do we know what programs are most important to our specific employees? Understanding the employee experience is the first and most critical stage in improving the workplace and can primarily be done through employee survey tools and monitoring techniques. With a firm understanding of the employee experience companies can select the right programs to improve productivity, increase employee retention, reduce turnover, and create a healthy company culture.

Employee Monitoring and Surveying. Is There a Difference? 

According to a Gartner article titled ‘The Future of Employee Monitoring’, when 239 large corporations were surveyed in 2019, it was found that more than 50% were using some type of employee monitoring technique, up from just 30% in 2015. Another survey carried out on 1,000 employees by the data science company, Profusion, stated that 61 percent of employees are comfortable with the idea of monitoring, so long as they are able to see the data their employer collects on them.

Employee monitoring is putting various tools to use to track individual behavior or the performance of an employee. It includes email analysis, computer usage monitoring, and tracking the performance of specific tasks performed by an employee. These tools are generally passive and automatic in nature meaning that employees do not actively see the monitoring going on or need to disrupt or change their work behavior to participate. While companies utilize these tools with the intention of improving company performance or eliminating illegal or improper employee behavior, they must be very careful to explain what they are doing and why this information has a vital business purpose so employees feel comfortable with the monitoring process.

The other method companies use to gain data in the workplace is using employee survey tools. Engagement surveys, 360 surveys and pulse surveys have taken off in use as ways to directly solicit feedback from employees to better the employee experience. Since these surveys are de-identified of individual names, they provide some degree of comfort to employees that they are not being singled out. Surveys are the opposite of passive and automatic monitoring tools as they require employees to find the time to actively respond to the questions asked. The more surveys created, the more time is needed from the employee. If companies want better results, they need to push employees to complete the surveys to get higher response rates. Also, for surveys to be accurate, employees need to provide honest feedback to the questions. Oftentimes, employees are concerned about providing negative responses or views that they think may be unpopular, skewing the overall results. 

A new technology that companies have started to implement combines the benefits of passive monitoring technologies with the strengths of listening to the employee voice through active and de-identified surveying technology. This technology is called passive listening. Passive listening tools such as TruPulse, automatically analyze employee morale, employee satisfaction, trending topics and cultural health but de-identify communications so they provide only group-level aggregated responses. Employers get all the benefits of surveying employees without the need for employees to actively participate in the process. This is much less intrusive than employee pulse survey tools.

Balancing Employee Privacy With Company Needs?

All tools that monitor or survey employees have their own strengths and limitations. Using a combination of passive monitoring, active surveying and passive listening can improve the workplace by identifying bad behavior, uncovering employee insights and allowing companies to be proactive in improving the workplace.  

A study published in 2020 of 5,000 U.S. workers by Thrive Global showed that 80% of employees felt “helpless and like things are out of their control” and even more wished “their employer would do more to help them adapt and manage.” Therefore, a lost sense of connection and open communication amongst employees and across the organization made businesses feel the rising need to meaningfully listen to their employees during and after the pandemic. 

So how should we balance the companies need to understand employees and improve the employee experience with the employees' sense that they want to be better understood but also want their privacy to be respected? Natalie Cramp, CEO of Profusion stated ‘A lot of how employee monitoring technology will develop comes down to trust. But this trust is fragile.’ Employees are becoming more comfortable with monitoring and surveying provided the How and Why of it is openly made available to them. ‘If employers use technology to intrude on privacy, create hostile police state-style environments or make decisions without adequate transparency and due process ­– employees will quickly turn against monitoring tech’, adds Cramp. 


In order for companies to be healthy and profitable, they need to have a productive and highly engaged workforce. In order for employees to have a meaningful work life, they need companies to understand the employee experience and improve the workplace to suit their needs. This means that new monitoring, surveying and listening technologies need to be used to bridge the gap between employer and employee. These tools can only be successfully used if employers are open and honest about the use of the technology and employees understand the business reason for these tools being used and can clearly see the benefits return to them with an improving workplace. 

Trust and privacy are the biggest concerns when it comes to employee engagement tools. Businesses need to ensure that they are operating well within acceptable boundaries. If they do, they will see the benefits of understanding the employee experience much more fully and will be rewarded with a more engaged and productive workforce. 

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