In one of the strangest human resources stories in recent history, a software developer in the United States has been revealed as a con-artist after outsourcing his job to a Chinese consulting firm.
The developer worked for a company who used Verizon as its security team – Verizon has updated its blog with a detailed account of the scam.
The employee, “Bob”, had contracted a Chinese consulting company to log in under his credentials and perform all his coding work for him. Bob had even physically sent the Chinese company his RSA security token, used to log in to his computer.
The only reason Bob was found was due to a security audit conducted by Verizon, which uncovered the fact someone from China was logged in to his computer. After some investigation, Bob confessed to the scam.
Instead of doing work, Bob just turned up and sat at his chair. In fact, his work day was so light, the company described this as his daily schedule:
- 9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos
- 11:30 a.m. – Take lunch
- 1:00 p.m. – Ebay time.
- 2:00 – ish p.m Facebook updates – LinkedIn
- 4:30 p.m. – End of day update e-mail to management.
- 5:00 p.m. – Go home
The strangest part? Verizon said he kept receiving stellar performance reviews during the period he was running the scam.
“For the last several years in a row he received excellent remarks. His code was clean, well-written, and submitted in a timely fashion. Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building.”
“All told, it looked like he earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, and only had to pay the Chinese consulting firm about fifty grand annually.”
While Australian businesses probably don’t have anyone outsourcing their work to a Chinese company, the incident nevertheless emphasises a key problem – how do you know your employees are actually doing their work?
Some businesses may have an inkling their staff don’t have enough to do, or are wasting time. But as E&I People Solutions co-founder Abiramie Sathiamoorthy says, it’s a difficult situation for any business.
“This is a pretty out of the box situation, but there’s a fine line also because you don’t want to cross over into micromanagement.”
“But there are certainly things you can do.”
You may not have staff outsourcing their work to a foreign country. But there are ways you can make sure they’re on task. Here are five methods for ensuring employees are working to their highest potential:
1. Conduct regular meetings
Many businesses will only conduct a performance review once a year. But Sathiamoorthy says it’s worth the effort to conduct interviews a little more regularly – maybe even once a fortnight.
These discussions won’t be focused on performance, necessarily, but are designed to catch up and get a general feeling for how things are going.
“At these types of meetings you can see if there are any problems with the workload. It’s a good way to keep on top of what people are doing.”
2. Ask the other employees
Sometimes a manager isn’t going to get the best perspective on whether someone is working to their best potential. Sathiamoorthy says getting feedback from other employees can help.
“You can get an understanding of what other people are thinking. If an employee only reports to their manager, you might miss out on the perspective of other workers.”
3. Keep them passionate
Obviously it’s the employee’s responsibility to do the work, but it helps if they actually like what they’re doing. Sathiamoorthy says you should be checking up on job requirements regularly, and give employees task that they enjoy.
“I think it’s management’s responsibility to make sure the work you’re giving them is motivating.”
4. The last resort – electronic monitoring
Electronic monitoring such as cameras and on-screen recording is a tricky area, and one that requires careful adherence with specific laws. But it can work – employees who know they’re being watched tend to do the right thing.