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Tracking Employee Performance: Why & How to Do It

Tracking employee performance has always been essential, but traditional methods don’t offer the data-driven insights you need. Here’s how workforce analytics can help. 

At ActivTrak, we’re quite familiar with the importance of tracking employee performance. It’s critical for understanding employee engagement, ensuring team members have the support they need to do their best work, and boosting business results. 

Unfortunately, most traditional methods of tracking employee performance aren’t quite right for today’s modern enterprises. The good news is that you can move away from these methods and toward the future with the help of cutting-edge employee monitoring software.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how managers have tracked employee performance through traditional methods. Then, we’ll dive into why these approaches aren’t the best solutions in today’s business world and explain how a data-driven approach to can provide the objective, measurable, and accurate information you need. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have a better understanding of how to track employee performance using technology for more helpful insights about your workers.

Choose where to start:

Historical Approaches to Tracking Employee Performance

Tracking employee performance is at the core of any productivity improvement initiative. Until you know where employees are in terms of their current productivity, you can’t create a strategic plan to boost performance. The only way to do this is to take a look at your employees’ activities and learn more about how they work. However, there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to how managers and team leaders monitor employees.

There are four traditional ways of tracking employee performance:

1. Asking around

This old-fashioned form of intelligence-gathering involves asking clients, co-workers, and other managers about their workday experiences with individual employees. The biggest disadvantage of this approach is that anything you learn is subjective and must be taken with a grain of salt, so you’re unlikely to generate any actionable insights. Also, asking around can put your employees in the awkward position of informing on their team members in an undefined setting. This isn’t a great way to foster a united workforce or boost morale. 360-degree feedback is a little bit better, but it can be challenging to pinpoint who should be evaluating whom if your enterprise’s teams are more loosely defined.

2. Self-reporting or surveys

Managers and C-suite executives aren’t the only ones responsible for improving productivity. Self-reporting, like personal performance reviews, allows employees to take responsibility for their own performance and come up with task and performance management strategies that work best for them. However, it’s not uncommon for people to earnestly underestimate or overestimate their performance in certain areas, or inflate their performance because they’re afraid they’re not performing as expected. As such, self-monitoring is an unreliable way to track employee performance.

3. Judging performance by output

Many managers adopt this approach because it seems like the most straightforward way to track employee performance. If the output is up, everything is fine and managers should continue what they’re doing. If the output is down, employee productivity and performance must be low and intervention is needed. 

The problem with this approach is that it ignores factors beyond the surface level. When looking only at the quantity of outputs, you might miss insights on factors like output quality, inefficient workflows, and employee burnout that can grow into larger issues over time.

4. 1×1 meetings

We’re big fans of 1×1 meetings here at ActivTrak. Regular meetings build community, ensure everyone is aligned on priorities, and provide a consistent stream of feedback to and from employees. With data, you can kick these meetings up a notch and generate more actionable insights — but more on that later.

Limitations of Tracking Employee Performance Through Traditional Methods

You need quantitative data to analyze employee performance, which, in today’s digital and remote workplaces, can only be gathered through employee monitoring. Questions you might seek to answer with the aforementioned methods of tracking employee performance may include:

  • Are my team members more or less productive working from home?
  • Do my employees have the tools they need to succeed?
  • How are this month’s productivity levels doing compared to last month’s?

All of these questions and others can be answered more accurately with employee performance data.

Out of all the traditional ways of tracking employee performance, 1×1 meetings are most relevant to the modern and ethical enterprise. 1x1s are excellent for connecting with your employees and giving them a chance to voice their concerns, and they’re also a great way to gather suggestions on how to improve your working environment directly from the source. However, 1×1 check-ins are only as productive as the data that goes into them.

If you have a monthly 1×1 meeting scheduled with your team lead, but you don’t have any key questions in mind or you just let the conversation go where it will, you won’t gain any actionable insights at the end of the hour. That’s why 1×1 meetings, a traditional mechanism, must be supplemented with a modern approach to productivity. With workforce analytics data at your fingertips, you can use your 1×1 check-ins more effectively and focus on what you really need to know.

How To Track Employee Performance Using Data

Having data is essential for tracking employee performance in the modern world, but it’s not enough to simply have data on employees’ activities — you have to know how to use it! In fact, ActivTrak doesn’t promote collecting data for the sake of collecting data – it should always have a purpose. 

Innovative organizations use workforce analytics as a more data-driven way to understand and track employee performance. We recommend using KPIs or key performance indicators to strengthen your approach to performance tracking. KPIs are critical measures of progress made toward high-level business goals, and using them helps you clearly define your goals and determine how they can be reliably measured and achieved. This keeps all teams aligned and helps employees track their own performance and progress accurately. KPIs also help you focus on strategy, operations, decision-making, and anything else critical to achieving business objectives.

Data gathered from workforce analytics helps support informed goal-setting and adds dimension to KPIs. Let’s say one of your key performance indicators for this quarter is to see an improvement in employee satisfaction by distributing workloads more effectively between team members. Great goal! Now, do you have accompanying performance metrics, like utilization levels, that will show you where teams currently are? Do you have a clear way to measure and track how workloads change over time? Do you have a way to report on your journey to meeting this KPI at least once a month?

Armed with the employee productivity data provided by a workforce analytics platform like ActivTrak, you can answer yes to all of these questions. KPIs provide the objective, while data provides the information you need to meet that objective — no estimations or hovering necessary.

Tracking Employee Performance the ActivTrak Way

Technology and data-driven insights are key to success, but not all workforce analytics technologies are created equally, and they aren’t all created with the ActivTrak philosophy in mind. We believe tracking employee performance effectively requires transparency and collaboration with individuals, so organizations should establish their achievable goals and productivity benchmarks together. 

By staying open and reassuring employees that any data gathered from the company’s productivity measurement software tool will only be used to help boost performance, your team will see performance tracking as the win-win it truly is.


  • Use data to elevate your employee performance tracking and gain actionable insights, which you can use to boost productivity.
  • Create measurable landmarks for goals so you and your team know when progress is made.
  • Remember the ActivTrak motto — insight, not oversight! The goal of tracking employee performance is to dig deeper into performance metrics so you can better understand how you can help employees reach their full potential, not scrutinize how employees spend their time

Interested in using workforce analytics to track and improve employee performance within your organization? Get more information about our workforce analytics software, or check out a 2-minute demo to see ActivTrak in action!

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