The Unlikely Marriage Between Security and Employee Experience


Helen Yu, Founder & CEO, Tigon Advisory, In Partnership with Lenovo

You and I have something in common. We are human beings with an innate drive to get things done. Psychologically, a sense of accomplishment leads to a feeling of safety.

In a perfect world, this would be inconsequential because there would be no security breaches. Data would be safe. People would explore and accomplish, collaborate and create without worry or thought of harm to the company they work for.

An optimist by choice, I believe, this world will exist someday. People will work and play unencumbered and confidently secure. Technology will support our desire to achieve.

We are not, however, there yet. Not by a long shot. Therein lies the unlikely marriage of security and the employee experience we are now faced with.

The 2019 Thales Data Threat Report points out that 60 percent of global organizations have been affected by a data breach, 30 percent in the last year. The US has reported the most breaches of any country.

While we've barred many attackers from the "obvious doors" to our companies, there are many ways into a house — basements, second floor windows, the appliances inside.

So we must build digital fortresses. I traveled to Brussels recently for a consulting engagement. The majestic castles I saw remind me of what many companies are building when it comes to security. A lookout tower to see the oncoming enemy. A moat as an obstacle to delay them. A stone wall with slits for arrows to defend against an offense.

This is our world now. With the influx of data and devices, security's complexity grows. Threats are everywhere — 50 percent of wireless access points have vulnerabilities and hackers are exploring new areas to attack beyond the expected. An article in Net Help Security says many companies use an average of 80 security solutions.

How do you hold 80 vendors accountable? How much time is required to understand and implement dozens of security solutions? And in what way does security solutions impact the employee experience?

Having led groups with growing number of Gen-Z, I can say firsthand that if technology is cumbersome, the Gen-Z population (Generation Z includes those born after 1996; the largest generation set to surpass millennials) will work around it.

This came up in a tech briefing by Thorsten Stremlau, Lenovo Commercial Chief Technology Officer . He talks about ThinkShield, a portfolio of security products and services to keep data safe and performance strong, sharing that his company's research shows Gen-Z does not use more technology, which is rather surprising, but that they are much quicker at rejecting it when it becomes inefficient.

Again, we come back to experience.

With Bloomberg putting Gen-Z at 32 percent of the population, that means a third of us who feel like security solutions requiring long login times, complex authentication steps, and restrictive internet access may find an alternative route to getting the job done. Are we willing to take that risk?

While a workforce of cord-never digital natives is a new and different kind of workforce, I also would argue that we have all come to expect a more vibrant consumer experience in the workplace. I love technology. I expect it to be unobtrusive and rocket boosting to productivity and efficiency. The sea change is further complicated with the onslaught of devices. Gartner predicts 20.4 billion "things" connected to the Internet by 2020. The more devices, the more opportunities for attackers to breach security and enter our "house."

Does keeping our companies safe mean compromising the employee experience? Does it matter? I believe CEOs leading today's organizations should very much care about the employee experience because it directly impacts the customer experience. When team members feel like technology is seamless, they have the freedom to bring their best self to the workplace.

The report entitled The Financial Impact of a Positive Employee Experience reveals that organizations scoring in the top 25 percent on employee experience report 3 times greater return on assets. Deloitte Insights reports that "organizations with the best workforce experience netted 12 percent greater customer satisfaction than other organizations — their three-year revenue growth rate was 2.3 times greater than the average of the whole sample."

Building the employee experience into technology products means taking a user approach rather than an "offerings" approach (build it and they will come) to development. Lenovo's ThinkShield, partnering with Microsoft and Intel, is putting customer needs in the center of its design process and focusing on solutions that are expandable, open, adoptable and easier managed. That indicates that companies recognize the employee experience needs to be easier and more seamless.

Effective security protection has to be quietly fierce. It's like being a great leader or parent. You have to know when to be present and when to get out of the way so people can truly fly easily and seamlessly.

Sustaining Partners