Businesses seek balance between connectivity, protecting company data

NOTE: First published in the Nov. 28 edition of the Daily Herald Business Ledger.

What does the new generation of workers want most from you?
Job security?
Career advancement?
According to a new study from Cisco Connected World Technology, it’s none of these.
In their annual report on the next generation’s view of the Internet, mobile devices, social media and the workplace, the biggest thing people entering the workforce want from employers today is connectivity.
The study of almost 3,000 college students and recent graduates found that one in three felt the Internet was an essential need in life, ranking up there with such basics as air, water, food and shelter. More than half said they could not live without the Internet.
With that basis in mind, the study found that the importance of Internet-linked devices and the information they provide rivals the importance of money as college graduates seek new jobs.
Highlights of the study include:
• One in three would prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary in accepting job offers.
• Two in five would accept a lower-paying job with more flexibility with device choice, social media and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.
• Two of three college students plan to ask about social media usage during job interviews.
• One in four college students say social media usage would be a key factor in their decision to accept an offer.
• One in four said the absence of remote access would influence their job decision.
• Seven out of ten believe company-issued devices should be allowed for personal and business use because of the blending of work and personal communications in their daily lifestyles.
It’s that increasing demand to tie their work and personal lives that create new challenges for employers, according to Dan Croft, president of Mission Critical Wireless in Lincolnshire. As business and personal lives have become intermingled, so has data and information on the devices workers use to conduct both.
“We had much clearer boundaries between business and personal about 20 years ago,” Croft said. “That blurring is what we as managers and business owners today have to come to grips with.”
Croft noted, as an example, the smartphone he was using for our interview contained work data, but also personal pictures and music. As an employer, he said, you have to respect that your workers will not only want to use company tools for their work and personal lives, but also want to have remote access to company data to do their job.
But if an employee is using his own smartphone for work and personal business and resigns to go to a competitor, how does the business regain control over the sensitive data that might be on that phone? Croft notes this issue has created a new industry — mobile device management, which is one of Mission Critical’s major functions.
“We are able to differentiate what is personal information and what is corporate information on a device,” he said. “Then at the appropriate time, we are able to wipe the corporate data off the device but keep the personal data.”
Employers need to establish a clear policy with employees that they will grant access to company data and networks, but the company has the right to remove data and access from those devices when the employee leaves the company. That policy must be able to balance the company’s needs and the employee’s flexibility. Making a policy too strict, or even prohibiting the use of personal devices or network access, could have adverse effects.
“There needs to be an understanding between business necessities and basic wants, wishes and desires,” he said.
“Prohibiting this could have a significant risk, as it will encourage people to find a way, typically in a rogue fashion, to utilize a product as popular as the iPhone to gain access to employer data.”
Croft suggests talking to your employees about what their IT needs are and develop a plan that will be suitable to everyone.
“It may be OK that Angry Birds is on a company-issued phone,” he said. “Provided that I can still wipe the corporate information off the device. I really don’t care that Angry Birds is on that device.”
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More tidbits
In addition to workplace issues, the Cisco study also provides an interesting snapshot of just how much the new workforce places on the Internet and connectivity. As mentioned before, more than half place the Internet as a basic need of life. Here are some more stats that you may find interesting:
• Two of three college students would chose an Internet connection over a car.
• Two out of five college students said they prefer using the Internet over dating, hanging out with friends, or music.
• One out of four college students prefer using Facebook over dating, hanging out with friends, or music.
• Sixty-six percent of college students, and 58 percent of new employees cite a mobile device as “the most important technology in their lives.”
• Seven out of 10 employees have “friended” their managers and/or co-workers on Facebook. Of those who use Twitter, 68 percent follow either their manager or co-workers, while 42 percent follow both.
• Only 32 percent prefer to keep their personal lives private.
• And, the one that hits closest to my heart: Only 4 percent say the newspaper is the most important tool for accessing information.