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It's a Job Seeker's Market — Here's Why Employers Should Think Twice About Using Surveillance Technology Here's how using employee productivity surveillance technology can negatively impact your business and your employees' experience.

By Mark Banfield Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Despite the vast amount of tech layoffs and the threat of recession, it's still a job seeker's market, and employers only hold so much power. A recent job trends report dug into this power struggle and found that 52% of job seekers in the U.S. believe they have the upper hand compared to employers. Companies shouldn't tip the scales even more by adding reactionary rules and technologies — or they risk losing their top talent and hurting recruiting.

The rise in surveillance technology, as employers try to crack down on how employees spend their workdays to increase productivity, is a controversial tactic that damages culture. And yet, 79% percent of companies that do not currently use these tools plan to deploy them in the next three years. Although a study found that 95% of IT managers say they'd be okay with employee productivity surveillance technology (EPST) if leaders were transparent about it, leaders must ask themselves: What are the real recruiting and retention ramifications given the current job market?

Related: 78% of Employers Are Using Remote Work Tools to Spy on You. Here's a More Effective (and Ethical) Approach to Tracking Employee Productivity.

What we know about EPST

We've seen a spike (80%) in productivity monitoring implementation since the onset of the pandemic.

We've specifically seen these tools take a toll on business leaders and IT managers. EPST forces them to make questionable decisions and spy on their coworkers. And yes, I deliberately use the word "spy" because that's what we're really talking about.

Typically, EPST logs and produces data on keystrokes, clicks, time online and website visits. However, when it's deployed, IT managers would likely defy company policy to inform colleagues about EPST, and 72% would help their coworkers find workarounds. How can this data be valuable with so many employees looking for workarounds?

A third of IT managers also view EPST as an invasion of privacy, so the pushback will continue. The only way for leaders to stop putting their mid-level leaders in sticky situations is to forgo these tools.

Surveillance technology is also known to decrease company morale. Thirty percent of IT managers indicate a decrease in company culture, a negative impact on employee mental health and even increased burnout on some occasions because of EPST. These factors could push employees to look for new jobs.

Related: Your Boss is Watching You. Here's Why Monitoring Workers is a Two-Edged Sword

The generational divide

Four generations make up today's workforce — baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z — and they all have opinions on workplace etiquette and comfort with surveillance technology. Millennials and Gen Z (Zoomers) are the most critical generations to pay attention to as concerns EPST. Some of these employees entered the workforce shortly before or during the pandemic. They will also be the first to jump ship when an organization implements harsh requirements or suspicious monitoring technology.

It's more important than ever for businesses to understand how different generations will react to deploying tools like EPST. For example, half of IT workers (52%) acknowledged they would turn down an otherwise desirable position if they knew the company used EPST. Similarly, 30% of employees noted they'd begin applying for a new job if they found out EPST was implemented. Three percent would even quit immediately.

EPST is backfiring on employers, and the generational divide only worsens this. It's typically not millennials or Zoomers making these crucial technology decisions and affecting turnover.

Baby boomers and Gen X see less of an issue with "harsh" workplace rules and regulations as they're typically more loyal to their companies and managers. So, while one part of the labor market is comfortable with EPST, the other side sees huge ethical issues with the practice. With the average millennial staying at their job for only 2.75 years, companies shouldn't give them another reason to leave.

Leaders should consider who is entering the workforce before making rash decisions about invasive technologies. While the conversations around EPST are complex, the decision to deploy it isn't.

Related: You've Been Tracking Employee Productivity All Wrong

With so many generational differences — and considering how much the pandemic changed work preferences and put the power into the hands of the employee — these tools are better left unused. As an alternative, employers that look for employee experience-enhancing tools have a better chance of driving productivity. Seventy-seven percent of companies that have put a focus on employee experience have seen an increase in retention. The number of job openings and voluntary worker resignations is reaching pre-pandemic levels.

If organizations ignore reason and deploy surveillance technology, they risk damaging not only the employees' experience but also their reputation and retention rates in exchange for sketchy, unreliable data.

Mark Banfield

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of 1E

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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