How Can HR Protect Remote Workers: Policies and Tech

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Jun 4, 2020
This article is part of a series called Remote Work.

A recent Gartner survey revealed that 74% of CFOs intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently, even once the COVID-19 outbreak recedes. For CHROs and CPOs, this means that the new pressures on HR brought about by the current crisis are here to stay.

The key HR challenge of the new digital workplace is the volume and velocity of communications that are occurring via third-party collaboration channels such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Facebook Workplace. A shift in this direction has been underway for a number of years, as part of broader digital transformation strategies. But the current crisis has rapidly accelerated things. One of our customers is a Fortune 100 financial services provider. Before lockdown orders went into effect, their 5000-employee workforce produced, on average, 60,000 Slack messages per day. Since work from home was mandated, the volume has doubled to 120,000 messages every single day. Sifting through these messages would be impossible even with a team of 100 dedicated people!

Such scale of communications is too much for human teams to keep up with. And yet properly keeping up with staff communications is the only way an HR department can do its job. Establishing the right HR policies is all well and good. But enforcing important internal policies is impossible if you are too snowed under to detect issues, let alone take action.

For example, many enterprises have instituted policies meant to prevent employees from disseminating potentially harmful misinformation about the COVID-19 virus. But how can they effectively enforce this policy if tens of thousands of Slack and Microsoft messages are going unchecked every day?

Other issues are deeper and will remain present even once the outbreak is brought under control. For example, people are just as if not more capable of bullying one another digitally as they are in-person. (Just look at what happened at luggage startup, Away, before the COVID pandemic.) The dynamics of digital groups can be exclusionary and cliquish. People can share inappropriate images, or crack jokes that they think are funny, but are actually racially insensitive.

And people can often behave badly in groups. A friend of mine at a tech company discovered that a group of employees were using a Slack channel to place bets on what the eventual COVID-19 death toll would be in their town. This is exactly the sort of unprofessional and unacceptable behavior that any HR department would want to shut down right away. But first, they have to know about it.

CHROs and CPOs need help. The only way to truly keep a handle on any of this – whether it’s COVID-19 misinformation, harassment, or anything else – is with help from technology. HR departments are in desperate need of tools that will enable them to adapt to the new digital workplace as quickly as possible. This is the only way they can regain visibility over what is happening within their organizations and effectively enforce policies.

The right digital risk protection (DRP) tools leverage machine learning to monitor the digital workplace without any blind spots. With a system that can monitor 100% of communications, round the clock, HR teams can instantly regain visibility.

DRP technology can empower them to detect inappropriate conduct, such as harassment, bullying, hate speech, and so on. Customizable policies allow teams to tailor detection frameworks to their specific policy needs. Language-agnostic risk analytics helps solutions scale to multi-regional operations, no matter what’s spoken in the office. And the discovery of problematic content allows HR departments to use mistakes as teachable moments, and improve long-term conduct.

A proper DRP platform can also detect security threats in both direct and group messages. A DRP tool can intercept and quarantine messages that are potential sources of malware or phishing links before they become issues. This breadth and depth of defense mean HR departments can more successfully partner with security and compliance teams to use one solution for multiple needs.

The challenges of the new digital workplace present a particular challenge for HR departments. But with the right technologies, it is still possible to fully enforce important HR policies around communication and staff conduct. Effective DRP technology can instantly provide HR teams with the visibility, coverage, and intervention options they need to be maximally successful within the new working paradigm.

Yes, embracing this technology will help in the short term, as enterprises scramble to adapt to the new WFH conditions. But making these changes now will benefit HR teams in the long run. As the Gartner survey shows, this newly expanded digital workplace is here to stay in the case of most businesses. The COVID-19 crisis will eventually wane, but many of the changes to our working habits will be permanent. Digital channels for collaboration and communication are not going away and are going to get more and more popular in the coming years. If HR teams can implement the right technology now, they will also be better off beyond the crisis, and for many years to come.

This article is part of a series called Remote Work.
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