Nick Kingsbury's Blog

I was CEO of Chronicle Solutions from 2006 to early 2007. The flagship product is netReplay, a Network Content Appliance that captures, indexes and replays all user communications in real-time. This blog reflects my interest in that area.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Survey on Employee Communication Risks Published

Survey Reveals High Level of Employee Communication Risks
And low awareness of company policies on use of non-corporate email and IM

We recently sponsored a survey of 140 office based workers has revealed that unmonitored technologies such as instant messenger (IM), MSN messenger and web mail are frequently accessed and used from company computers – leaving organisations vulnerable to legal action and regulatory infringements.

The key findings include:

  • IM and MSN messenger have been blocked/ banned at 29% of organisations
  • 71% of employees use IM at their place of employment to discuss work with friends and family
  • 36% have used IM at work to communicate with customers and business contacts
  • 43% of employees have received an IM or web mail message that they were upset or offended by
  • 21% of employees are not familiar with their organisations policies on IM and web mail use
  • A further 21% do not even know if such policies exist
  • 7% stated that there were no policies.

These days electronic communications have become the predominant method of communication in the work environment and offer significant benefits. However, an inability to control the use of IM, MSN and webmail has led to many organisations blocking their usage.

Such fears are justified by the high numbers of those who use IM and webmail at work to discuss work matters with friends and relatives – meaning vital information could be leaked and laws related to information protection and publication breached. More worrying still for organisations are the 36% who use such technologies to liaise with business contacts, including clients and partners. Anything stated in such communications cannot be proven or centrally accessed, meaning disagreements cannot be effectively resolved – and again the organisation could find itself facing legal charges from which it cannot defend itself.

The risk of facing accusations, either from internal or external sources is high – with a staggering 43% stating that they have received IMs and web mails that they were upset or offended by. In cases of sexual harassment, racism and sexism the organisations HR department may find it is unable to resolve the complaint and thus facing legal action itself.

We think it is becoming increasingly necessary for organisations to grasp the nettle of employee use of IM, web mail, gmail and other non-official methods of communication from work. Blocking may seem like an easy solution, and may have been accepted 3 or 4 years ago, but these technologies have also proven themselves to be invaluable in the workplace, and a must-have way of communicating for the internet generation.

The only effective way for organisations to protect themselves and their employees in the future is by monitoring such communications while clearly stating that to employees. And this ultimately benefits employees as anyone who has had to report a case of harassment to their HR function or has undergone an internal or legal examination based on what may have been exchanged on email, web mail or IM will be able to testify.

Nick Kingsbury

October 30th 2006


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