Managing employee Web use is a collaborative effort involving managers, HR, IT, and employees.

 

There is no doubt that the Internet is an integral tool in today’s corporate world. It is central to business processes with more and more employees utilizing this important corporate resource daily. Most likely, your workplace has seen a significant increase in Internet use or Web use, contributing to the agility, efficiency, innovativeness, and success of the business. However, many issues can arise with employee Web use if it is not properly managed. I strongly believe that employee Web use involves human behavior in the workplace, and the proper management of it is a collaborative effort involving managers, HR, IT, and employees. In this article, I will discuss the issues affecting companies today concerning employee Web use, and with each article thereafter, we will delve a little deeper into the solutions.

The first issue is that with employees spending a large portion of the workday on the Internet, for both personal and work-related purposes, businesses have reason to be concerned about the security of their corporate network. Employees can be subject to phishing scams, end up on malicious Web sites, and unknowingly download infected files, jeopardizing the security of their system and the company’s network. Are your employees security aware? Do they know how to recognize online threats and how to report them?

Another issue is that with the tremendous increase in surfing the Web at work–between one and three hours a day on personal business–employees can waste considerable work time. Wasted time represents a reduction in workforce productivity and efficiency and consequently, unnecessary cost. Additionally, employees can waste time on legitimate but unproductive Web site visits. This waste can stem from flawed business strategy, poorly designed processes, or misguided supervisory direction. Do your managers have the accurate information they need on their employees’ Web activity?

Employers also have concerns about where their employees are going on the Internet. Unfortunately, one of the most serious forms of Web-access abuse involves the downloading and displaying of pornography. This is a huge issue from the standpoint of workplace liability, where the legal liability primarily takes the form of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an employee who has inadvertently or deliberately been exposed to pornographic images downloaded by another employee.

If you are allowing your employees to access the Internet, you must have an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that spells out what type of Web activity is acceptable, what type is not acceptable, and the consequences of engaging in the latter. The AUP should reflect the corporate culture. If you don’t have one, who should create this policy and ensure that employees adhere to it? If you do have a policy in place, do your employees know the policy and how to use Internet access properly?

For all of these people-oriented Web-use issues, clearly HR personnel are the professionals best equipped to take the lead in developing and implementing employee Web-use management efforts, collaborating as required with IT, and along with managers, training employees on the use of network resources. IT can deploy firewalls and network security equipment, but is not equipped or trained to deal with the larger issue of keeping your trusted workforce from compromising the security measures in place.

Managing your employees’ use of the Web is all about employee behavior, productivity, and morale, and the resolution of the above issues involves matters of policy, training, and compliance. In the next articles, we will explore HR’s role in the collaboration effort, IT’s role, the requirements of an effective Web-use management program, and other topics related to keeping your employees and network safe.

Please let me know your thoughts on and reactions to this article and my questions by adding a comment. Who is leading the people-oriented Web-use management efforts in your business? Is it a collaborative effort with multiple departments or just an IT-focused task?

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