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Optimizing Oversight: How to get the Balance Right

The following is a guest post by Patrick Foster of Ecommerce Tips.

We’re bound by the internet on a near-constant basis — even if you escape the glut of free Wi-Fi signals that comes with a modern urban environment, you have the prospect of omnipresent mobile data (barring the occasional dead zone). Because of this, opportunities for operational oversight at working sites are richer than ever before. But when does it go too far?

Because make no mistake: it can go too far, becoming not only cost-ineffective but also counterproductive for worker performance. Though some workers welcome extensive monitoring (possible even enjoying the motivation to excel), most merely endure it as a necessary evil — and others inevitably feel so closely guarded that they can’t concentrate.

Since video oversight is absolutely mandatory to track progress and protect investments in certain industries (such as the construction industry), this should certainly not be taken as a suggestion to avoid it. Instead, I strongly recommend that you commit to striking the right balance — and here’s how you can do it:

Agree baseline needs with all parties

Depending on the specific details of any working arrangement, there may simply be the employer and the workers involved, or there may be numerous other parties factoring in to varying extents (for instance, the employer could send their workers out to get things done on a project run by two other companies). Since every party invested in the project is going to want to know about progress, you’ll want to confirm with everyone what they expect in their updates.

You may discover that the client (or clients) wants a 24/7 feed of the area, with every worker fully tracked for the duration of their working day — but of course it may transpire that they don’t actually care that much and will be happy with the occasional live stream. This step is so important because you don’t want to back off on your oversight only to find that other involved parties are unhappy with the change.

Meaningfully consult your workers

Once you know the bare minimum you can get away with relaying to any other parties (possibly nothing at all if there aren’t any), you should discuss the topic with your workers. The essential element of this step is a genuine interest in (and respect for) what they have to say. Yes, you’re ultimately in charge and responsible for the work getting done, but if your workers view you with hostility, they’ll be far less likely to be professional and efficient.

Ask your workers how they feel about your oversight. Do they think you monitor them too much? Too little? Would they rather you tracked things differently? Take their responses into account as you think about the data you want or need to collect. The implementation of GDPR (or, more accurately, the publicity surrounding it, with everyone scrambling to figure out what exactly it means) has made the general public keenly aware of how private data can be collected needlessly. Even if you ultimately need to monitor them more closely than they’d like, it will make a huge difference to them that you made an effort to find a solution that suited them.

Allow whatever working flexibility you can

Even if your workers are mostly tasked with physical work, there will be other things to do — paperwork, admin, other supporting tasks — and there’s no reason why you need to track them closely when they’re working on those things. You hired them for a reason, so trust their expertise and professionalism and give them more freedom to work as they see fit.

Never forget that we live in a time of great business opportunity unbound from desks and offices, particularly on the internet where convenient digital tools and online business ideas make it viable for someone with zero entrepreneurial experience to quickly start making money. The days of workers feeling like their options are limited are all but gone, and anyone with the competence to be worth hiring is going to be capable of forging their own path if they’re not happy where they are — so if you want to keep someone, make it worth their while.

Oversight is immensely important for any large-scale project, but it needs to be handled delicately to ensure that everything proceeds smoothly. Try these suggestions to establish a good balance between getting the data you need and giving your employees some breathing space.

Ecommerce Tips is an industry-leading ecommerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Start growing your business today and check out the latest on Twitter @myecommercetips.