Leaders to trust employees rather than use surveillance software, finds new survey

Companies are rejecting surveillance technology and employee monitoring in favour of building work cultures based on trust and autonomy post-lockdown, a new survey of HR executives has found.

With organisations making the transition to a new world of work involving more remote working, the poll, by business consultancy firm The Culture Builders, has given a revealing insight into the true impact of the pandemic and its influence on future ways of working, including the management of remote workers.

Its findings, published today (Monday 4 October), include

– Some 50.3% companies said they would give their employees greater autonomy and support

– Trustworthiness (58%), empathy and supportiveness (57.6%) and resilience (52.3%) were the most important leadership qualities post-lockdown

– Only 15.9% would consider surveillance technology, such as mouse monitoring software, to help manage the performance of a remote workforce

Chris Preston, co-founder and director of The Culture Builders, said: “If you buy surveillance technology for your workforce, the cost will be the trust of your employee base. And once that’s spent, good luck getting it back.

“If you game the employee-base with monitoring software then, guess what, they will game it right back. Just like me tying my stepometer to the dog, people will work out how to make it look like they are hard at work, when they are anything but.

“If you don’t trust your employees, you probably need to take a long hard look at your leadership style and cohort, not dash to the store and buy snooping software.”

Researchers interviewed 150 leaders in human resources and personnel development about the journeys their organisations have been on since the global outbreak in early 2020. The findings, published in The Culture Builders report Poly-working: the evolution of hybrid working, give a fresh perspective of the immense challenges to re-shape the workplace but also of new opportunities to do things differently and better.

Other key findings in the survey, conducted in July and August, include

– despite the perception of many that the pandemic brought us all closer together, the pandemic actually weakened company culture for a significant proportion, particularly for companies with between 500 and 1,000 employees

– employee engagement, such as maintaining motivation and developing talent, was singled out as the biggest challenge for most organisations during the first phases of the outbreak

– supporting the mental health and wellbeing of workers was the most time-consuming for HR leads, but they now have a better understanding of how to manage it

– as recently as last August, a significant proportion of organisations did not have a fully fledged plan for transition to new ways of working post-lockdown

The survey is one of the most up-to-date investigations into the way employers are now making the transition from working within enforced Covid-19 restrictions to post-lockdown operations. Its findings, says The Culture Builders, underline why forward-thinking leaders, including those at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, are now moving beyond the simple office vs home-working model of hybrid working.

They are now responding to lessons learned during the pandemic, and changes in the attitudes of working people, to adopt a more sophisticated model that incorporates the myriad approaches used to blend the needs, opportunities and preferences at work of individuals, teams and organisations. This is more accurately described as poly-working, says The Culture Builders.

Emma Berry, Pfizer’s senior director and global lead, colleague communications and engagement, said: “We have a culture that puts colleague health and wellness first. We work extremely hard, but we are empowered and trusted to get our work done in a time and way that suits us personally. My manager focuses on the outcome, not the hours I work.

“We have clear goals and these are regularly talked about and assessed every 6 months. And of course, the reality is that when you empower and trust people, they give you more. Equally, it is our responsibility as a colleague to build that trust and not take advantage of the situation