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A Human-centric Approach to Operational Awareness and Risk Management.

Workforce Cyber Intelligence 105: Improving Operational Efficiency with Workforce Visibility

Last week we explored the protections Workforce Cyber Intelligence provides both employers and employees. Now, we’re taking the next step and examining how this visibility can improve operational efficiency.

Workforce visibility and employee monitoring are not one and the same. Solutions that focus on gathering employee productivity data are draconian and will ultimately fail under the pressure of an employee-centric culture. Workforce Cyber Intelligence, on the other hand, offers a human-centric input to operational efficiency initiatives to provide transparent, yet mutually beneficial, intelligence to both employees and employers.  This is especially true for financial services, healthcare, pharmaceutical and manufacturing organizations were speed and efficacy of service and delivery can mean the difference between market leadership, profit and growth versus customer churn, lost revenue and down-sizing.

Employees as a Source, NOT a Subject

Not only does “old school” employee monitoring often foster negative employee feelings of being watched as it is unidirectional in nature and purpose. The purpose is clear — watch employees by tracking their behaviors online, within applications, who they communicate with, what data they use and how they are using it. This approach offers little to no value to the employee, only to the enterprise and direct line managers who view the employee as an asset in need of measurement and risk versus a valuable resource and trusted insider. The likely unintended consequence of this is a disengaged workforce – one who believes their contribution to the employer is not valued.

Workforce Cyber Intelligence replaces the employee as the target of monitoring and recognizes users as an important and missing source of input to operational health and business efficiency. This new approach positions employees as key contributors whose behaviors offer rich, contextual data that directly indicate the effectiveness of enterprise applications, organizational processes, and efficacy and adoption of collaboration workflows. Let’s dive into a few examples:

  • Operational assets utilization and return on investment — Despite continued technological advancements and an abundance of technical data elements about application usage, few organizations actually understand which tools employees truly rely on versus those that remain shelf-ware. Employee behavior is a real-time demonstration of what team members find valuable and what they need to do their jobs. Workforce Cyber Intelligence provides proof of which technologies are ultimately returning value from the organization’s investments in time, money and energy.

If an employee feels the technology available isn’t meeting their needs, they may create “workarounds” to complete their tasks. Unsanctioned, untested, and unmaintained technologies brought in behind the scenes or “in the shadows” can introduce multiple new attack surfaces, a concept called Shadow IT. Workforce Cyber Intelligence augments asset management software solutions with human activity and behavioral data to provide context to technical metrics. Together, this data helps answer important questions surrounding investment, utilization and deployment for procurement and IT.  For example, is the organization over-investing in a certain software for a large group that could be reduced and assigned to a service team?

  • Employee engagement and sentiment The forced transition to a remote workforce has made employee engagement and sentiment critically important to the operational outcomes and achievements of an organizations KPI’s. With Work from Home movements eliminating most face-to-face and interpersonal communication, many employees have been left fearful of layoffs causing them to work longer hours. This has resulted in increased emotional stress as the lines between professional and personal time and activities are muddled.  

HR and IT organizations often use surveys and interviews to assess employee well-being, responsibility fatigue, energy and interest. While this data is informative, it’s subjective and open to interpretation. Workforce Cyber Intelligence complements traditional direct, indirect and inferred methods that organizations use to measure employee engagement and sentiment data with objective, fact-based intelligence about user behavior in direct relation to their peers, groups, departments and the organization at large. For example, is an employee spending less time online, responding to fewer emails and not completing weekly tasks on time? This behavior would indicate declining engagement and the possibility that the employee is a flight risk.

Workforce Cyber Intelligence can also be utilized to support the purpose of old-school employee monitoring solutions geared to measure productive engagement. However, the introduction of data minimization and data anonymization enables Workforce Cyber Intelligence to focus on the behavior of the entire organization instead of named individuals until a threshold of risk is observed. This privacy-by-design approach generates less concern from employees, HR and legal teams, and is bidirectional in value to employees and employers.

  • Professional coaching and development helping employees improve their business skills through feedback, a mentor and/or internal career coach isn’t a new idea. Dr. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz coined the term “corporate athlete” almost 20 years ago. Since then, competition for a skilled digital and technical workforce has increased.  So too have investments in professional development programs, organization-sponsored continuing education, and leadership education initiatives.

Similar to the techniques used to monitor employee engagement and sentiment, methods used to analyze and inform professional development programs have remained subjective and heavily influenced by relationships. Workforce Cyber Intelligence brings facts to these programs by offering empirical data on employee actions and behaviors that can be used by both parties to identify productive and unproductive behaviors. Employees and coaches can identify tasks that slow employees down and those that improve outcomes. The data enables employees to grow professionally with the support of the organization.

  • Risk management and compliance — Humans are an organization’s most valuable asset and its greatest vulnerability. Regulatory requirements and recommendations can be confusing to interpret and difficult to track. In the event of an audit, organizations must be able to prove compliance around how and why employees, contractors and third parties’ access and use sensitive information, as well as the effectiveness of controls used to reduce the risk of mishandling data.

With Workforce Cyber Intelligence, organizations get a complete, contextual audit trail of user activity and behaviors that can be layered on traditional technical data to illuminate intent and help compliance teams and auditors understand risk posture and confirm regulatory mandate alignment.

Operational Efficiency Outcomes of a New Approach

The goal of any technology investment is to improve operational performance (e.g., save time, reduce inputs, expedite timelines) by streamlining processes, workflows and communication. Traditional approaches to employee monitoring, insider threat management, and data loss prevention (DLP) do little in practice to accomplish these goals and, in fact, often negatively affect user sentiment, slow endpoint performance and miss human behaviors that precede data exfiltration attempts. The need for these technologies continues to increase along with the need to make processes, workflows and collaboration better, faster and cheaper, while keeping data safe and employees productive.

By helping organizations to focus on the workforce as a source of intelligence that flows bi-directionally rather than a subject of continuous one-way surveillance, Workforce Cyber Intelligence introduces a balance of visibility, privacy and human-centric behavioral awareness that benefits both employee and employer. As a result, operational efficiency is positively affected and improved in multiple scenarios.

What’s to Come?

Next week, we will finish up our series and explore ten use cases of Workforce Cyber Intelligence to examine how this “new school” approach enables organizations to make informed business decisions.

Can’t wait? You can always download the full Workforce Cyber Intelligence for Dummies eBook for additional insight now.