Another company, SpectorSoft of Vero Beach, Florida, offers software that can be installed in all office electronics, from office workstations to mobile phones. Among other things, it can take screen shots of an employee’s computer at various intervals, and determine when files have been transferred to a USB drive. The company lets employers set up alerts when a worker’s behavior is anomalous or if it detects certain trends, such as prolonged time spent on particular websites.
The software shows employers what percentage of time employees spend e-mailing or using certain applications and who sends the most file attachments, among other metrics. “A lot of companies use it that way to baseline what people are doing,” says Jeani Park, SpectorSoft’s senior director of product strategy. If something changes suddenly, it could be a sign of fraud, she adds.
And in one effort to improve office communications, Lymbix, a startup based in Moncton, New Brunswick, monitors tone in e-mails and issues the writer an alert before he or she hits the send button on an unintentionally cranky-sounding message.
In general, more and more companies have policies about how employees should use their technology, and they are increasingly using software to enforce these policies, says Nancy Flynn, founder and executive director of the ePolicy Institute, a consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. A report by the institute reveals that in 2009, 46 percent of employers surveyed had policies governing the use of social media, 82 percent had policies governing personal use of company e-mail, and 36 percent had policies over use of company-provided instant messaging.
“We have definitely seen a trend upward in terms of the number of employers that monitor Internet use and e-mail,” says Flynn, adding that more employers are starting to watch worker activity on blogs, social media, and cell phones as well.
Cataphora’s approach of creating digital character dossiers on employees is not yet mainstream, Flynn says. And of course, employees might find the concept a bit disturbing. But Charnock believes that the right kind of monitoring and analysis can help good workers shine and protect everyone from the dangers of a malicious or negligent employee. “The world will come around to the idea that monitoring in an appropriate way is appropriate for employees and employer,” she predicts.