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Companies Still Battling With Employee Internet Timewasting


Half of HR decision makers have encountered or have had to discipline employees for time wasting on the Internet, according to new research with HR professionals from content security specialists Clearswift. The research also found that two thirds of British HR managers say their organisations are blocking access to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

HR professionals are facing a similar problem with staff accessing inappropriate content in the workplace, with 43 per cent encountering or having to discipline employees for accessing online pornography at work. Despite social networking sites being relatively new (Facebook only launched publicly in the UK in 2006), nine per cent of those polled have already encountered or have had to discipline employees for inappropriate content posted on these sites.

“Given that social networking sites have only really taken off in the past two years and the amount of Internet disciplinary incidents HR professionals have encountered, it’s little wonder that many companies perceive social networking sites as a threat. However, it is important for businesses to understand the vast benefits of secure Web 2.0 access. Consumers are increasingly turning to social networking on the Internet for all aspects of their daily life and as a result they expect to be able to interact with businesses through the same media,” says Stephen Millard, VP Strategy at Clearswift.

“Innovative HR departments are already recruiting through Web 2.0 sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Second Life, and by taking advantage of these technologies in a secure way they are gaining competitive advantage,” he said.

The Clearswift survey polled more than 300 HR decision makers in the UK and found that despite the rise in popularity of social networking sites, a significant number of HR professionals are yet to get to grips with Web 2.0 technologies. Only one third (34 per cent) of respondents actively use Web 2.0 technologies and one in five stated they were unfamiliar with them. Worryingly, only 40 per cent of HR managers said their companies’ Internet usage policy covered the use of social networking sites.

“There is no doubt that the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies, such as social-networking sites, is changing the way that all organisations do business. HR departments need to keep abreast of these changes for a multitude of reasons in order to work effectively,” says Penny Davis, Head of HR Operations at T-Mobile. “At T-Mobile, we make use of Facebook, for example, to aid our graduate recruitment process. As an organisation, we need to ensure that as such technologies develop we fully understand the potential and the impact on our business"

“The HR department’s role is definitely changing,” says Millard. “The rapid development of communications technologies – and the potential for both business benefit and employee misuse – poses a significant challenge for HR professionals. Our research found that HR professionals don’t see being the ‘Internet policeman’ as part of their role and are, unsurprisingly, more focused on recruitment and retention of staff and promoting equality and diversity – deferring technology issues to the IT department.

“However, should IT managers be making decisions on what they see as a breach of employee Internet usage policy? And in less obvious cases, can they truly recognize what HR would see as a breach? While HR should work closely with IT, companies probably need to provide more training and support to HR departments to empower them to manage these new technologies effectively and to understand the impact they can have on the business. Content security technologies are also available to ensure secure access to such sites and enable companies to apply different policies to different staff or groups of staff.”

The research found HR professionals rely on IT departments to flag what they see as breaches, enforce policies, and HR staff were not involved in the entire process of policy development, monitoring use and identifying breaches. The research found that less than half (44 per cent) of HR professionals were working with IT on developing policies and only 21 per cent of HR decision makers were involved in monitoring employee Internet use in any way, as opposed to 82 per cent of IT departments. Over half (53 per cent) of HR managers surveyed said that they are notified by IT if a breach has occurred.

“We are urging businesses and HR departments to take a sensible approach to the risks posed by social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace,” Millard said. “In today’s competitive environment, businesses cannot simply lock down access to Web 2.0 services: instead, they must harness sophisticated content security solutions to protect themselves while allowing the business to enjoy the benefits which these new technologies can provide.”

Clearswift’s content security technology helps companies define policies on acceptable Internet usage and enforce them by ensuring all inbound, outbound and internal email and web traffic – including Web 2.0 sites – complies with those policies. At the same time, Clearswift can protect organisations from spam, viruses, spyware and web-borne malware, and help prevent data loss.


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