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None of this is by accident. Studies consistently show that happy employees are more productive employees, and autonomy and access are two factors that can make employees happy. While employers are rightly trying to build compelling workplaces for their employees, the digital environment has become increasingly perilous and troubling, especially when it comes to data security and privacy.
As a result, companies are forced to balance employee autonomy with security protocols and privacy regulations. With the average data breach costing companies nearly $4 million, ensuring data security is a practical necessity.
To guard their data and to protect personal privacy, many organizations have turned to robust user activity and employee monitoring software to support these initiatives. I worked at a New York hedge fund and subsequently as an independent consultant to many financial service organizations for about a decade implementing security oversight and insider trader protection systems, which involved implementing employee monitoring, insider threat detection and data loss prevention systems, monitoring all user activity on desktops and laptops. Today, I am the founder and CTO of an employee monitoring provider.
In my experience, while leading employee monitoring software is capable of guarding data and protecting privacy, it can cause employees to feel spied on or untrusted, two things that can erode a flourishing company culture. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s why.
Modern user activity monitoring isn’t a veritable CCTV camera spying on employees. As any — and every — employee with a smartphone knows, it’s easy to waste time scrolling through a Twitter feed on company time. If previous iterations of the software were geared toward oversight, today there are endless ways to be unproductive away from company computers.
To put it simply, oversight is not the goal.
Instead, the software should be approached as a nuanced and granular tool for protecting data and preserving privacy. By communicating employee expectations, applying the software to specific scenarios and embracing a growth mindset, it’s possible to incur the benefits of this software without compromising culture.
Communicate employee expectations.
Autonomy is one of the most valued workplace commodities; however, that doesn’t mean that business leaders can’t set and enforce acceptable use policies for their employees’ technology and time.
These values are not antithetical to one another, especially when they are communicated clearly and consistently. When it comes to data protection, this can include policies detailing expectations for data handling, remote work and file storage — three of the most crucial elements of data security.
While this may require retraining and clear communication for veteran employees, it can be integrated into the onboarding process for new recruits. Taken together, these policies can support a company culture that protects customer information while guarding the company and its employees from a devastating data breach.
Apply the software to specific scenarios.
In large call centers where hundreds of employees field thousands of calls, user activity monitoring software can make the difference between a workforce that’s satisfied with their jobs and one that feels overwhelmed by the work. Employee monitoring software should be visible and transparent so that employers and employees understand that it is for their benefit, not their detriment.
Of course, sometimes employees behave nefariously, and those actions can be incredibly devastating to a company and its employees. Especially in heavily regulated industries like finance or health care, providing employees with assistance to ensure that they remain compliant is especially important.
Those dealing with the fallout from Goldman Sachs’ 1MDB scandal realize that proper employee monitoring serves as a tool that protects other employees from the rogue actions of their colleagues. In the case of 1MDB, a small cohort participated in a cadre of illegal activity that ultimately cost the bank hundreds of millions of dollars, even as it faces criminal charges for its involvement in the matter.
When the software is configured to protect employees’ personal privacy, it is something that any employee can support. Companies can pursue this without compromising their hard-earned workplace culture by emphasizing that it is being used in specific scenarios as a vehicle for support and protection, not oversight.
Embrace a growth mindset.
Great business leaders know that their organizations are always a work in progress. Work can become more efficient, policies and procedures can become more representative, and products can become more compelling.
It’s this insatiable drive toward excellence that propels great companies toward success. Of course, to excel in this way, there needs to be routine process reengineering and optimization so that today’s workflows don’t become tomorrow’s growth barriers.
Especially for young companies, the things that worked for a small team are unlikely to maximize the talents and abilities of a growing workforce. Don’t let old communication methodologies, sluggish software or inefficient data management become a drag on growth.
At the same time, companies need to appropriately balance growth and innovation with security and intellectual property protection. In the startup world where ideas and intellectual property are a company’s entire value proposition, stopping leaks and intellectual property theft is a top priority. For a young company, losing control of this information can be detrimental to its success. This scenario is playing out in lawsuits from the electric car maker, Tesla, as it battles self-described efforts of “sabotage” by employees stealing company data and distributing it to other companies.
Because data security and personal privacy are going to become more prominent issues, not less, employee and user activity monitoring software will play an increasingly important role in the modern workforce. It doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable asterisk on an otherwise successful corporate culture. Rather, it can be another tool enabling clear communication and continued autonomy.
March 12, 2019 at 08:45AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs