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Managing Staff

What Are Your Employees Doing When You’re Not Looking?

Small businesses can benefit from employee monitoring, in the right circumstance.




As adults we tend to have very strong opinions about privacy. A Pew Research Center study showed that 74 percent of respondents ranked the ability to control who can get information about you as being “very important” and 67 percent ranked “not having someone watch you or listen to you without your permission” as very important.

Context does play a big role, though. While more people may balk at online commerce or social media sites collecting personal information, tools that allow parents to monitor the children’s activities, or even tools that allows employers to monitor employees, are more commonly accepted. While large enterprises with thousands of employees may be deploying sophisticated and costly monitoring systems, small businesses can often accomplish what they need with less expensive tools, often originally designed for parenting situations.

On the parental front, savvy parents must know that WhatsApp is now the communications tool of choice among young people and simply looking at your kids’ Facebook page is no longer enough. Parents want to know what their kids are saying on WhatsApp and that’s not quite as straightforward.

Today, many tools used by small businesses are also used by parents – basic website monitors and website blockers are standard equipment at schools and libraries and increasingly used by private businesses to reign in the incidence of superfluous Web surfing on company time.

Related: 11 SA Entrepreneurs on What They’ve Learnt About Managing Staff

Despite its origins as a communications tool targeted at the youth market, WhatsApp is just starting to make some inroads as a business tool, and just as quickly as that is happening, tools like XNSPY, a tracking and monitoring app for Android and iOS devices, are appearing on the market with new features to track WhatsApp, giving employers (and parents, too) a way to look into whether WhatsApp and other communications apps are being used appropriately.

What’s up with WhatsApp in the workplace?


It’s a real-time, cross-platform messaging app, often used by young people as a social communications tool, although some small businesses are starting to discover its utility as a tool for doing business as well.

Recently bought by Facebook for a record $19 billion in cash, shares and stock, the app is likely to be more popular with new millennial employees who are just entering the workplace.

“With the Facebook acquisition propelling WhatsApp into the limelight, corporate security managers are only just now recognising the need to address WhatsApp in their security policies, and update their monitoring tools accordingly,” said Sean Polinski, Manager of Product Development at XNSPY.

“WhatsApp is no more dangerous than any other instant messaging tool, and may even be useful as a business tool, but a monitoring policy has to be in place to ensure legal compliance, and promote a safe workplace.”

Currently there are only a small handful of web apps that monitor WhatsApp, including XNSPY, which lets employees view WhatsApp call logs, read chat threads, and view pictures, as well as check senders’ names and numbers, and view time and date stamps. It can monitor both Android and iPhone smartphones, and works by installing a small piece of software on every smartphone or tablet that needs to be monitored.

Is it legal to snoop?

Often, use of monitoring tools in the workplace isn’t a matter of snooping, or even a perceived need to keep employees off of social media platforms or offensive websites. It’s simply a legal requirement that could keep you out of trouble if, at some point in the future, the government demands to see your electronic records.

Many employers are motivated to monitor employee activity over concern about potential litigation. Lawsuits, compliance with government mandates and the potential for government investigations all require companies to create more of a digital paper trail than ever before, and security experts will always tell you that more is always better. At some point, you may be called upon by a judge to produce documents and if that happens, you had better be able to produce all of them. Saving some – but not all – employee emails, for example, would eliminate any possibility of using emails as evidence in a court case.

The lesson – if you’re going to electronically snoop on your employees, do it across the board, for everyone (including yourself), save your files and document your actions and have a written policy documenting precise procedures for doing so.

Related: As An Entrepreneur, Be A Motivational Leader To Your Staff

The need to retain electronic documents – including emails, text chat threads and even WhatsApp threads – became more important with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002, made into law in response to high profile court trials in which companies participated in fraudulent financial reporting. SOX attempts to put into place a set of practices designed to prevent the alteration of digital documents, including emails and messaging threads.

Most employers do some sort of monitoring – whether it’s MBWA (Management By Walking Around), or installing software on desktops, notebooks and cell phones – but XNSPY recommends a written and uniformly applied security policy in order to ensure full compliance with the law. Regulations regarding employee monitoring are surprisingly light, and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance is really more about what to do with and how long to store electronic records such as employee emails and chat threads, rather than asking whether it should be done at all. That it should be allowed is seen as a given from a legal perspective.

According to XNSPY’s best practice guidelines, employers wishing to monitor employees’ online behavior must follow a few basic rules:

  1. Apply monitoring uniformly. When electronic records are demanded by court action, if you have not retained records strictly according to policy, you may not have the proof that you thought you had when you face the judge. If you monitor one employee, you must monitor them all.
  2. Approach employee-owned electronics with caution. Although the practice has become more common, employees may still have a reasonable expectation of privacy on their own devices, and installing XNSPY on an employee’s personal device is not advised. However, it is fully within the law to install it on the employer’s equipment. For that reason, some companies are embracing the practice of employer-issued smartphones.
  3. Create a written policy manual. Lay out expectations and rules in writing, and advise employees that use of electronic equipment may be monitored.

Other questions as to legality arise when using GPS to track employees in employer-owned vehicles. Many of the software tools on the market have multiple features, as does XNSPY, which also includes a GPS tracker. But using GPS may be done for more reasons than simply knowing whether your employees are stopping off at the donut shop one too many times, it can be very useful as a dispatch tool as well as a safety tool in case of accident. But regardless of the reason for deploying the GPS feature, courts have generally held that use of GPS in company-owned equipment is allowed.

California, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas do have separate laws that prevent mobile tracking devices to be used to track other individuals, but even those statutes will not apply to GPS software installed in employee-owned vehicles or employee-owned equipment.

Employers love it, but will employees?


The need and desire for privacy has to be balanced against compliance requirements, the need for workplace safety and the financial considerations of the employer. And while, as the Pew survey revealed, consumers will bristle at commerce sites that collect personal information, employees are more likely to accept monitoring by an employer.

Related: Want to Lead Your Staff? Serve Your People

According to the survey, only 28 percent ranked “not being monitored at work” as very important to them, with 22 percent saying it was not very important.

Small businesses can benefit from employee monitoring, in the right circumstance – so long as it is transparent, employees understand that it is being done and for what reason and that it is used uniformly across the board. In addition to satisfying the needs and concerns of employees, doing so will also satisfy legal requirements for electronic document retention.

This article was originally posted here on

Dan Blacharski is a thought leader, advisor, industry observer and PR counsel to several Internet startups. He has been widely published on subjects relating to customer-facing technology, fintech, cloud computing and crowdsourcing. He lives in South Bend, Indiana with his wife Charoenkwan and their Boston Terrier, "Ling Ba."

Managing Staff

5 Things To Do When An Employee’s Performance Deteriorates

It can be confusing and frustrating when a successful employee’s performance takes a nosedive. Intervene effectively using these five steps.

Liz Kislik




For all kinds of reasons, even longstanding, highly productive employees can experience a performance slump at some point. The Towers Watson Global Workforce study showed that up to 26 percent of workers surveyed said they felt disengaged, and another 17 percent felt detached.

As a founder, you may not always find an obvious way to get someone back on track, but the investment of energy you would need to turn this situation around is still so much less than what would be needed replace and train a new employee.

So, the upshot is that it only makes sense to figure out what’s going on and take action. Ready? These five approaches may help.

1. Ask explicitly if the employee is okay

And find out if there’s anything that you should know about instead of assuming you understand this individual’s current circumstances and reactions. Of course, it will help if you’re already aware of his or her personal situation.

Perhaps the employee is dealing with a new and challenging circumstance that’s distracting. In that case, it can help to share your evidence: “James, I was wondering if everything’s okay. I noticed that you stopped/started doing X, and I figured I’d better check in with you about it.”

At one of my clients’ companies, when a leader touched base with a staffer who had fallen below expectations, the woman explained that her dog had died, and she was grieving. Knowing her boss cared about her helped her refocus on her work.

2. Look for signs of stress and burnout


Burnout costs U.S. businesses as much as $300 billion each year, whether the reason is employees having had to absorb too many changes or the fact that they’ve just been plain old working too hard for too long.

A longtime administrator I knew was being criticised for her negativity, her self-pacing and  her avoidance of anything new. After some analysis, however, it became clear that there was more work than her team could handle. Once her team was staffed up and the new team members were reasonably up to speed, she started to recover her resilience and became more even-keeled.

Related: Why I Stopped Doing Annual Employee Reviews

3. Probe for changes in the employee’s job

Perhaps there are new problems with equipment, resources or information flows; maybe a major customer is giving the employee a hard time, or a manager is behaving differently in some way.

A CEO I work with was concerned about a downturn in an executive’s previously outstanding performance. We discussed how the employee had recently been assigned to lead a new initiative for which he did not have previous experience, although he was the best internal candidate. The CEO agreed that as soon as the new initiative could afford to pay for an experienced executive, the reassigned employee should return to the assignment where his performance had been consistently superior.

4. Describe your expectations for the employee’s performance


And talk about how the business, team or customers are affected when it’s lacking. Although up to 87 percent of employees in one survey reported by Strategy + Business said they wanted opportunities for development, only one-third reported actually receiving feedback to help them improve.

So, make sure you’re concrete and specific about both expectations and impacts. Ask what employees need from you or from others in the organisation to help them get back on track.

I had to give one senior leader excruciatingly detailed feedback, in areas from interpersonal dynamics to personal hygiene. It wasn’t pleasant for either of us, but until he was made aware of exactly what was disturbing to customers, there was no hope for improvement.

Related: How Diversity Drives Board Performance

5. Provide meaningful recognition

Employees in  a survey by the Cicero Group were three times more likely to choose recognition as the single factor most likely to motivate superior performance– over inspiration, autonomy and even pay.

Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive or even time-consuming. One leader I knew started using the daily standup meeting not just to review the progress of the work, but also to mention superior contributions and excellent performances. Not only did preparation for the daily meetings improve, but team members were eager to make contributions that could be noted.

In sum, even excellent performers can lose momentum or be stalled by circumstances from time to time. How to respond as the employer? Intervening early will help you feel optimistic about a positive outcome and give the employee involved the benefit of the doubt so you can demonstrate to staff the confidence you have in them and your willingness to provide support during a tough time.

Just don’t wait to do this: If you wait till you’re fed up with either the person or whatever’s going wrong, you’ll find it much harder to turn the situation around.

This article was originally posted here on

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Managing Staff

Managing Multicultural Teams

In this article we answer some key questions around managing multicultural teams.

Dr Sorayah Nair




Companies that have greater gender and cultural diversity, particularly at senior management level, have consistently reported higher than industry profitability – as shown in McKinsey’s latest Delivering through Diversity’ report. The statistics gleaned from the report show that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to yield above-average profits.  Furthermore, executive teams that are more culturally and ethnically diverse are 43% more likely to report more favourable bottom line figures.

Whilst the findings do not directly confirm the correlation, that increased diversity results in increased profitability, it is hard to ignore the consistency comparing outperforming industry rivals. The benefits of diversity are strongly suggestive, however, managing the challenges of diversity in the workplace can be challenging. It requires leaders with high emotional intelligence (EQ) that focuses on open communication and building an inclusive culture.

In this article we answer some key questions around managing multicultural teams, including:

  • What are some of the challenges of workplace diversity?
  • 5 essentials to managing multicultural teams
  • What is the future of cross-cultural training? 

1. What are some of the challenges of workplace diversity?

For a start there is not enough diversity in the workplace. Statistics suggest that we do not have enough representation of women and, in particular, people of colour in senior management positions and even less at board level. The dearth of women and cultural diversity is a global problem and not just a South African one.

To address diversity organisations need to:

  • Make a compelling case for diversity.
  • Invest more in employee training.
  • Expose all staff to diversity and inclusion workshops.
  • Ensure that hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair.
  • Give employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives.
  • Focus on accountability and results. (McKinsey report, 2017)

Related: 5 Tips To Make Managing Employees Less Stressful For Everyone

2. Five essential to manage multicultural teams:

It is important to understand that culture is fluid. It is also common to find people identifying with more than one culture. This means that we need to be careful about making the error of cultural stereotyping. There are as much differences within cultural groups as there are between groups.

So the way to manage multicultural teams, I believe, should be no different to managing any team. If we want great teams then managers need to have the following attributes;

  • High EQ
    • Awareness of self (ability to self-regulate)
    • Awareness of others (Skilled at relationship management)
    • Motivated
    • Empathic
  • Be skilled communicator
  • Be inspirational
  • Be courageous
  • Understand diversity (in all its forms) 

Here are five ways to get the most out of a multicultural team:

Clearly communicate the “Why” (Simon Sinek)

It is important for leaders to clearly communicate the organisation’s vision and to ensure that the message cascades throughout the organisation. Organisations where staff are clear about their purpose and know what is expected of them, show less entropy (time spent on non-revenue generating activities). Staff also report higher job satisfaction when their purpose is clear.

Create an inclusive culture

Leaders need to create a space that allow everyone a seat at the proverbial table. Staff need to feel they have a voice and that their opinions matter.

Create a psychologically safe workplace

Employees need to feel safe to express their opinion without fear or favour. It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the right culture (the way things are done daily) is in place and that candid conversations are encouraged.

Allow employees to bring their ‘whole-selves’ to work

It is important for managers to get to know their employees. Managers need to make time to enquire about their lives outside of the workplace.

Create a culture of accountability

All employees need to understand the role they play in the long-term sustainability of the organisation. Employees who need support should be encouraged to ask for help timeously as their contribution impacts the whole organisation. This understanding of the individual contribution to the collective outcome should also encourage staff to support each other and discourage the creation of silos in the workplace.

Related: Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset – Manage Them Well

3. What is the future of cross-cultural training?

The global trend is towards the need for greater cross-cultural awareness. In South Africa particularly, we are becoming increasingly aware of the legacies of our political history that continues to negatively impact the world of work.

Cross-cultural training or diversity and inclusion needs to intensify – for that we need our industry leaders to be courageous and know that increasing diversity not only makes good business sense, but that it’s the right thing to do.

For more information on online courses that help with managing multicultural teams, visit

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Managing Staff

From Employee Engagement To Empowerment

Engaged employees will go the extra mile to resolve a client’s problem or close a sale, they contribute to a culture that consistently delivers great service and they drive company growth. Here’s why.

Sandra Burmeister




“Engaged employees are more innovative and take the success of the company personally.”

Employee engagement is defined as an active state related to productivity and innovation. Engaged employees can be described as being fully immersed in and enthusiastic about their work. This emotional attachment means that employees will go above and beyond the call of duty. Employee engagement differs from employee satisfaction. Satisfaction can be described as being happy at work. Engagement takes employees to another level.

Engaged employees will go the extra mile to resolve a client’s problem or close a sale, they contribute to a culture that consistently delivers great service. Engaged employees take ownership, deliver on their commitments in and outside the organisation and are passionate about satisfying the customer because they own the result of their work.

Simply put, engaged employees are a prerequisite for building high performance teams within an organisation.

Unleash potential

A recent Gallup survey on the State of the Global Workplace shows that a way to significantly increase productivity is to unleash employees’ potential by allowing individuals to identify, develop and use their natural talents so they become strengths. Employees who use their strengths on the job are more likely to be intrinsically motivated, and teams who know each other’s strengths relate more effectively to each other, boosting group cohesion.

Related: How To Build Better Employee Engagement

The survey also shows that making better use of employees’ strengths requires businesses to grant workers greater autonomy to use their strengths, which requires a profound management shift in which more personalised relationships and positioning team members for maximum impact occurs.

The resulting sense of empowerment, however, benefits both the employees and the organisation. Higher levels of autonomy also promote the development and implementation of new ideas, as employees feel empowered to pursue entrepreneurial goals that benefit the organisation — that is, to be ‘intrapreneurs’.

In addition, talented managers are critical players in implementing a performance- orientated, engagement-based and strength-focused culture and aligning the leadership and employee values. This individualised approach helps great managers account for generational differences in employee expectations, in particular Millennial employees that prefer a higher level of flexibility.

Amongst the top performing companies, in any survey, 60% to 70% of employees are engaged at work. This is a clear financial incentive for leaders to take employee engagement and empowerment seriously. Engaged employees are more innovative and take the success of the company personally.

Focusing on engagement

There are a number of additional activities to help leaders succeed in employee engagement. These include: Strong visible values in the organisation, understanding and addressing employee expectations, career pathing with tailored development programmes to help employees achieve their goals, great communication tools and internal social collaboration for peer-to-peer learning and collaboration, knowledge transfer and helping the company expand the use of best practices, along with a great reward and recognition programme.

The African continent, in particular, offers companies and employees more opportunities to be involved in community improvement projects and company-wide CSI programmes, which also increases the feel-good factor in the organisation and ultimately contributes towards an increase in employee engagement.

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