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How to Maintain Security Without Driving Away Millennials

Ah, millennials. The generation everyone loves to hate (seriously, who do they think they are, with their selfies and their Tweetlers and FaceSpaces?). It’s understandable: as the first generation to grow up in a totally post-internet world, millennials represent an approach to technology that’s intimidating and unfamiliar to the rest of us. Most have spent their entire conscious lives connected to the digital sphere in one form or another. Now, they’re growing up and entering the workforce they currently make up 34% of the working world. With their arrival, security professionals are feeling the winds of change or at least, you should be. The increasing number of millennials in the professional world means that the face of the workplace is changing. It’s your job to keep your security relevant, and a different workplace means a different plan.

This rule goes double when you’re talking about millennials in particular. You’re dealing with major shifts in attitude when it comes to technology. That means that many of your current security practices could either be rendered ineffective or create a frustrating work environment. To avoid such fate, there are a few crucial things you need to take into consideration.

Millennials know their way around a computer

It goes without saying at this point that millennials are the most tech-savvy generation, and that means that they’re also the most up-to-date on new advances. Chances are, they’ll be the first to bring a cool new gadget, service, or tool into the workplace. This in itself isn’t a bad thing a lot of the time, these tools will make them work more efficiently and effectively, which is a win for everyone! But, you still need to be realistic and recognize that some of these innovations might introduce holes in your security system.

It’ll be tempting to handle this problem with restriction, but it’s definitely in your best interest to resist that urge. Millennials and any employee will be frustrated if forced to abandon a tool that makes their job easier. That makes sense! You want creative employees who use all resources to be productive as possible. This is not something that you want to beat out of people, especially not millennials, who are full of these sorts of ideas. Plus, millennials are likely to find ways around the roadblocks instead of throwing their hands up in defeat. If that happens, then everyone loses.

A better option is to forego heavy restrictions entirely. Any employee will benefit from having the ability to do their job in the way that works best for them. Instead, take the route of “knowledge is power.” Implementing an endpoint visibility solution will allow you to see what kinds of external tools are being used in the workplace. More importantly, it will show you where the specific security issues are, so you aren’t forced to block everything. Your employees will thank you, and chances are, you’ll see an enterprise-wide boost in morale and productivity.

Millennials trust technology or do they?

Millennials grew up with technology. Naturally, they have a more innate comfort level with it than the rest of us do. They’re not going to obsess over each form submission and permissions request. A lot of times, they don’t give a second thought to sharing personal information online. It’s really easy to look at this comfort level and see apathy. Some claim that millennials have no interest in protecting their data. And sure, in a sense, they do have a point: millennials casual attitude towards technology can and does lead to riskier behavior. Millennials will be the first to adopt a new cloud storage platform in the office, for example, or they may not see the big deal about using work and personal devices interchangeably.

But, there’s a flipside to this sense of familiarity. Millennials may approach technology casually, but they’re also very much aware of its risks moreso now than ever before. 1 in 3 millennials now believe that risks to their online safety are increasing significantly. They aren’t naive. This combination of ease and knowledge means that your first step to securing a millennial-occupied workplace is education. Don’t talk down to them, but inform them of threats and trust their savviness. Then, use endpoint monitoring to determine who specifically is actually engaging in risky behavior. Those are the ones who need further education or stricter controls.

Millennials value privacy

Privacy is very important to millennials. You may find that statement hard to believe, considering the reputation of the selfie-stick generation. But for a group of people who are a-ok with choosing the share their lives with the world, they’re surprisingly vehement in their objections to data being shared without their consent. Millennials are the only generation that overwhelmingly supports Edward Snowden. This, thankfully, isn’t because they’re big fans of insider data breaches, but because they value the protection of privacy rights.

No one likes to be monitored Big Brother style, and employees of any age are rarely okay with it. This goes double for millennials, who came of age while privacy was (and still is) a major talking point. Be very, very cautious when it comes to drawing the line between monitoring and surveillance. There are endpoint visibility tools out there that are effective while still respecting privacy (through anonymized data, for example). Be transparent about the security measures you have in place, and why they exist. If you mess up, you create an atmosphere of distrust, and your employees and work will suffer for it.

Why should I care?

It’s time to wake up. As of 2015, millennials make up more of the workforce than any other generation. They aren’t going anywhere. At this point, most of your top prospective talent is going to be a part of this group. When they’re looking for jobs, they’re going to be taking company culture and policies into consideration which are largely shaped by your security practices.

Plus, most people tend to ignore the most important point here: Millennials may be easy to laugh at now, but the cultural shifts that they embody are just signals of larger trends to come. Paying attention to mindsets among them is an investment in future-proofing yourself. What’s more, many of these changes endpoint visibility, de-emphasis on restrictions, transparency, an emphasis on privacy are genuinely more effective in any security system. Instead of immediately dismissing these cultural and technological trends, look at them with an open mind. By being impartial and observant, you can use what you see to build a stronger security program and a happier workplace than ever before.