When health care recruiting firm Tal Healthcare was force to switch to remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kelly Kettenring, the company's director of recruitment operations, began to think about how she would keep track of the company's recruiters who would be working away from the office for the first time.
"We never had work from home as an option," she said. "When people are working from home, it's easy for them to hide from me, but most importantly to hide from themselves. Some people have a problem with accountability."
She added that the Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based company didn't have an effective way of monitoring workers who were telecommuting. Employees would send an e-mail in the morning and send another at the end of the day, which served as a timesheet for checking in and out. Eventually, management deemed that system to be inadequate.
"We realized we had to have some sort of open communication to show if workers were working and how productive they are. We never had a structure to do that," Kettenring said.
She noted that by the summer and fall of 2020, business began to improve, and the company added staff. Tal Healthcare settled on a hybrid system where its recruiters work some days in the office and at home the rest of the week.
As the demand for medical workers increased and the business grew, Kettenring said she was spending more time building back the business. "I was managing too much. I couldn't micromanage each recruiter to remind them that they're not sending out e-mails, not making enough phone calls, or not on LinkedIn enough. In a down year I also could not hire another person under me to manage the team," she said.
In September, Tal Healthcare implemented software from Prodoscore, an Irvine, Calif.-based company whose product allows employers to see employees' daily work performance.
Prodoscore's product uses machine learning and natural language processing tools to capture employee-related data. The software integrates with Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, customer relationship management systems, and telephony platforms to track, for example, e-mail activity, calendar events and team collaboration.
A performance-based score is generated, giving employers an idea of which employee is more likely to quit, who is less likely to meet performance goals and which worker could better use cloud tools. For those with better scores, the tool indicates which worker is more likely to be successful and who is more engaged in their work.
The information is presented in a dashboard format that gives employees an idea of how they are doing compared to their colleagues.
Tal Healthcare recruiters rejected Prodoscore when it was first introduced, Kettenring said, fearing their privacy would be breached. Kettenring added that recruiters needed help understanding the technology in order to not feel they were being micromanaged.
"When I rolled out the product, I was getting a lot of questions about the software," she said. "I gathered the questions and asked Prodoscore to host a Google Meet meeting to answer them."
The story of Tal Healthcare reflects a broader business trend. As the number of remote workers grows and work patterns change, employers are seeking technology that provides valuable analytics on how employees work and what makes them succeed.
"The workplace has shifted, and it has to be based on trust and outcomes," said Tom Moran, chief strategy officer at Prodoscore. "It's not about attendance, it's not about where we go to an office, it's about delivering outcomes in collaboration with others and in the environment that's best conducive to accomplish that."
Moran said HR managers should ask themselves, "Are you looking for a tracking tool, or are you going to look for an application that really does help empower employees to perform better? That's what this is about, helping organizations perform at higher levels and doing it with confidence regardless of where people are at," he said.
A 2020 Gartner survey of executives at 119 companies found 60 percent of companies are using technology-based tracking tools to monitor some of their hybrid or remote employees.
Gartner's data also shows that employees are more likely to be at ease with monitoring tools if they understand how and why they are being used.
"Employers need to become dramatically more transparent about what they are using employee monitoring tools to do, why they're doing it, what is the purpose and what they are trying to accomplish," said Brian Kropp, distinguished vice president at Gartner.
HR managers can help workers trust employee monitoring tools by explaining how employees benefit from them.
"If you are an HR executive, the question you should be asking about each one of these monitoring tools is how will an employee interpret this, not how do we sell this to employees," he said. "If HR executives can draw a straight line from the data these tools gather to how they're going to make an employee's life better, then employees, generally speaking, are pretty accepting of being monitored."
For Kettenring, she believes employee tracking tools can improve the conversation and reduce the tension between HR managers and employees.
"If a recruiter came to [an HR manager] and said, 'Why is my Prodoscore low?' [The HR manager] can share their screen with them, they can see the metrics and show some of the metrics of other recruiters," she said. "An HR manager can extrapolate the data from Prodoscore and put them on a performance plan. It starts a conversation."
Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.