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

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

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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?

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?

unhappy-employee

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 Entrepreneur.com.

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."

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Managing Staff

How The Digital World Has Impacted HR

Here are a few ways in which HR has changed.

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Almost every conversation that happens within a business environment is around growth and how technology is changing the way we do business. With few industries left untouched, the digital world has radically changed the way individuals work, creating an even bigger demand for real-time experiences.

The HR department deals with an influx of messages and emails on a daily basis, so in order to make things easier, digital has introduced a variety of different online tools that have certainly helped set the tone for the future of organisational management. With employee cultures, engagement and productivity being a few of the most important topics circulated internally, HR has a fundamental part to play in getting existing employees to adopt a digital mindset that supports this new-age culture.

The quicker businesses take advantage of technology to manage performance, make the hiring process easier and give people access to their own personal information, the quicker it will separate traditional workplace thinking from today’s thinking.

Here are a few ways in which HR has changed:

Cloud computing and online apps

With previous admin and other HR tasks being done by hand, cloud computing has now made everything faster and simpler. Professionals now have access to the latest online tools that will help streamline processes and allow individuals instant access to their own personal information without having to ask for it. This also speeds up the process and takes a lot of extra, unnecessary work off HRs shoulders.

Related: Is Leveraging Your Resources Getting The Job Done Properly?

In the upcoming years, companies can expect cloud-based HR systems to become more automated and mobile friendly. This means that HR and management will be able to access employee payrolls, CV applications and more, with just the click of a button.

People analytics

One of the many benefits that digital has created for HR is the availability of employee data. More companies have started using online applications to monitor employee performance and company productivity. HR departments have started tracking employee behaviour and patterns through their selected app, making employee feedback easier and more efficient. If any employees have complaints, questions or queries, logging these requests online will make it easier for HR to deal with, considering the amount of content they receive, every day. This will also help them to make more effective decisions.

It’s no secret that a company’s most valuable asset is their people, and when looking to motivate employees, track employee training and individual performance or set up a training programme, then online is the way to go. By having a more holistic understanding of your people and how they’re performing, HR can better support a culture of feedback, engagement and motivation. This kind of approach will also enable employees to better align their personal goals to bigger business objectives.

Real-time feedback

Because the digital age has created the impression that things can get done quickly, in real-time, employees feel the need to give and receive feedback with an instant response. Real-time evaluation is much more effective for something that needs to change than an annual or quarterly review would be.

If new procedures, policies, meetings or activities get announced, employees can immediately give their feedback on a specific topic or outcome. This will also help you know when to make changes both within the organisation and with employees. For example, employees who don’t measure up to their KPI standards can be subjected to additional training or can be let go in favour of someone else who can come in and do the job better than they do.

Related: What Happened To The Workplace? How To Make It More Human

AI, VR and AR

Gone are the days where robots, VR and AR were simply jargon used among tech geeks. These terms have officially made it to everyday conversations, between business owners, employees and HR leaders. Virtual Reality (VR) which can be identified as a recreation of reality, is now being harnessed by companies in their training activities, as well as Augmented Reality (AR) which enhances technology. These elements are starting to become far more integrated into internal activities, helping employers engage better with employees, making activities more interactive and fun.

While many advancements have been made to the HR department and even HR management courses at colleges, there are countless others to look forward to. New tech innovations are introduced every day, creating even greater opportunities for businesses to align their goals with HR.

Professionals will need to keep up to date with the latest trends and develop their own strategies to stay within the path of progress. Much like all things digital, we all have mixed emotions when it comes to new trends but in order for companies to stay relevant, they will need to adapt their company goals to meet these challenges. Technology is only going to keep moving forward.

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Managing Staff

A Culture Of Discipline Critical For SMMEs To Thrive

Employees are the heart and soul of every organisation, especially for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).

Thabang Rapuleng

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Employees are the heart and soul of every organisation, especially for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). As a result, the implementation, as well as enforcement of clear workplace policies and practices is critical to the success of these companies.

With South African Labour Law as strict as it is, we are still finding a significant number of SMMEs that do not have any formal policies and procedures, which increases the risk of these companies not complying with labour laws.

This is often as a result of SMMEs not having the necessary manpower or finances to have fully-fledged human resources (HR) departments. It can therefore be a common occurrence to find SMME owners at the helm of HR divisions.

An owner-run HR department will also not necessarily be overly familiar with labour laws. The company will often do something that is “good for business” but not advisable in terms of the law. This could lead to poor decisions being made and could be detrimental to the future of the company.

Related: 3 Steps To Find And Keep Top Talent In Your Business

Poor communication of policies and procedures is another area of concern for many SMMEs, resulting in employees often being unaware of HR policies and making them likely to infringe on these policies. New employees may also find it difficult to adapt to the business and employees could end up losing what could have been a valuable asset to a growing business.

A culture of discipline is essential

Discipline with regards to the enforcement of policies must be considered as a day-to-day management function, rather than a once-off or ad hoc event. This approach will ensure an issue is resolved before it spirals out of control.

For example, if an employee takes an extended lunch break, and the employer allows it to happen, it will send a message to other employees that this is perfectly acceptable. Employers will soon find other employees adopting a similar approach, possibly resulting in a large-scale disciplinary process. If the employer took the time and initiated a disciplinary discussion with the one employee, it would have communicated to other staff that this type of behaviour is not tolerated, avoiding a potentially bigger issue.

This is not just an issue in SMMEs. CDH often finds large corporates also struggling to maintain discipline on a day-to-day basis. In some cases, corporates tend to wait until an employee has made a significant mistake or serious act of negligence before intervening.

Record-keeping is your ally

Keeping a record of all disciplinary matters is an essential part of creating a culture of discipline in the workplace. It is critical that all verbal and written warnings are recorded and kept in the employee’s file.

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

Under South African Labour Law, an employee must always be allowed to state his/her case in all disciplinary matters, irrespective of the seriousness of the infringement.

Before the employer issues a verbal or written warning, the employer must notify the employee of his/her infringement. The employees must then be given the opportunity to state their case and if the employer is not satisfied with their explanation, the employer may then legally issue the warning.

For more serious matters, which verbal or written warnings will not solve, you must follow more formal steps, such as disciplinary hearings. However, if you maintain a culture of discipline on a daily basis, you will rarely have issues escalating to such a degree.

Correcting an overall workplace culture is far more difficult than rectifying a small incident. When an employer has to correct an entire culture that is deeply entrenched in their business, the process can be more expensive and take much longer.

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Managing Staff

8 Ways To Upskill Your Call Centre Team Before Year-End

For South African call centres, November is the busiest month of the year, so to get in on the action, it’s only appropriate for Olico to provide a few tips on how to upskill your call centre agents.

Gareth Moutain

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As we’re heading into the 2017 home-stretch, many companies will be concerned about hitting those final sales figures. Apart from being a tough year financially, traditionally sales tend to lag behind at this stage. But there is hope.

For South African call centres, November is the busiest month of the year, so to get in on the action, it’s only appropriate for Olico to provide a few tips on how to upskill your call centre agents.

1. For sales, balance is key

A firmly held belief is that the more leads allocated per seat, the more sales that seat will bring in. That’s incorrect. Give the agent too many leads, and they will give up too easily on a call, stopping at the first hurdle experienced. Too few leads mean they might miss out on sales opportunities. Finding the right balance is essential, bearing in mind that all leads should be made the most of.

2. Improve the opening script

In a call centre environment, agents must know how to capitalise on that brief period of time to get a foot in the door. The opening script is absolutely vital, and it can be enhanced by simply adding personalisation to it. Make sure the person is greeted by their name/surname, with agents encouraged to add some energy to the lines to make it stand out from other call clutter.

Related: The Festive Season Might Be Over, But There’s No Rest For Call Centres

3. Provide the origin of the lead

Tying in closely to the above, sales will improve if agents know where the lead comes from. If the lead is from a person who responded to an email campaign, it must be mentioned in the script. Once the person knows the call is related to a request they sent, they will immediately form rapport with the call centre agent.

4. Product refresh training

Much like a car sometimes need a retouch to bring back the shine, so too do call centre agents need a refresh on the products they are selling. Products also evolve, so providing agents with a short course on new benefits, while re-emphasising the key ones, is a great idea.

5. Objection handling

Closing a sale through the telephone is hard work, and call centre agents must be made aware of all the tricks of the trade to seal the deal. If a consumer is not keen, sell harder. If there are regular excuses, find their counterpoints. Is the client’s home language isiZulu? Find the agent who can help. Give them a reason to stay on the phone.

6. Stick to the appointment

Time is money they say, so if the person requested a call back on a specific time, make sure the appointment is kept. Customers don’t respond well if a time slot was missed and yet another call catches them at a bad time.

Related: Why Tyra Banks Cold-Called Zappos’s Tony Hsieh

7. Improve quote ratios

It’s easy – more quotes mean more sales. If the potential customer is provided with a quote, the chances of them converting to a sale is considerably more certain. Where the problem comes in, is guiding a lead through the call to be able to quote. For call centres this means tailoring the script to elegantly move from “Good morning, Mr. Williams,” to “Our life policy will cost you R350 per month”.

8. Incentivise!

With the holidays and Christmas coming up, everyone needs that extra cash, that’s why the time is now to really incentivise sales. Big paydays for agents and teams who sell the most will provide the kindling needed to get those sales fires burning.

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