Security, Transformation Concerns Grow With Remote Work

Remote Worker

Could employers’ increasing use of remote workers collide with their security concerns and transformation efforts? New research suggests that it might.

Supported not only by technology such as mobile, collaboration and cloud storage solutions, but also by more flexible workplace policies and acceptance that people don’t have to be in the office to be productive, the size of the remote workforce has increased dramatically.

Today, more than 40 percent of Americans work remotely once each week, according to U.S. Census data. That’s up from less than 10 percent in 2010. Research by GetApp, a recommendation engine for SMB software, found that 48 percent of employees work from home at least once a month.

Could the increasing use of remote workers collide with security concerns and transformation efforts? New research suggests that it might. #HR #HRTech #HRTribe Click To Tweet

However, while the number of remote employees goes up, the workforce’s overall level of preparedness for technology-centric issues such as data security and transformation lags. For example, GetApp found that only half of employees have received any kind of data-security training. Not even two-thirds—60 percent—of businesses provide such education. Of the 40 percent of workers who do receive training, 43 percent don’t get it on a regular basis.

That’s worrisome in a world where security threats are growing dramatically. Just one example: Gartner predicts security vulnerabilities will increase as the number of IoT endpoints swells, from 4.8 billion in 2019 to nearly 6 billion this year.

Employees also don’t feel like they’re ready to navigate transformation, although that might be tied to a disconnect between executive talk and actual technology investments. Much is being written about how organizations will transform the way they operate—usually through the adoption of new technology. However, only 12 percent of the survey’s participants could say for sure whether their companies use AI-driven systems.

In addition, said GetApp, the implementation of such technologies “is still nascent.” That makes us wonder if organizations aren’t preparing employees for transformation because they’re not sure what that transformation will look like.

Care, Feeding and Remote Work

Even if that’s the case, it’s hard to ignore the fact that employers often treat remote workers’ engagement and training as a second priority. Anecdotally, a number of remote workers feel removed from the cultural, political and training opportunities afforded to their colleagues in the office. However, As Ultimate Software Vice President of People Kathleen Pai wrote, “They’re also often just as integral to a company’s overall culture and health as local employees and should not be relegated to an afterthought.”

In terms of management, remote workers can’t be lumped in with on-premise employees, HR executives say. They have different motivators, pain points and feedback preferences and so require a distinct approach.

In its 2019 Pulse of HR Survey, PayChex found that employers relied on skills development, feedback and encouraging employee input as key components of their engagement strategies. But only 53 percent said more than half their employees were engaged, down from almost 66 percent in 2018.

At the time, we speculated that the drop in engagement was symptomatic of the workforce’s changing dynamics. HR leaders said engagement was their top challenge with remote workers, but also believed engaging them required different tactics than those used on-premises. What’s not clear is how aggressive companies have been in developing engagement and training programs purely for their off-site employees.

Interestingly, a report from Owl Labs said education and training reimbursements are 26 percent more important to remote workers than they are to on-site workers. The same study revealed that 38 percent of remote workers received no training on how to work remotely.  

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