Onboarding Remote Workers
On this episode, Darren talks to Denis O’Shea, founder of Mobile Mentor about his experience, research, and advice in onboarding remote workers.
After an international career at Nokia, Denis founded Mobile Mentor 17 years ago. The company stemmed from his experience that people were not utilizing the technology in their smartphones. Although smartphones had advanced technology, people used them only for basic functions such as phone calls and text messages. A seminal moment came when Denis was trying to sell a network solution to a CEO, and the CEO asked why his company should buy any more infrastructure when the customers were not utilizing what the company had already purchased.
Denis asked himself why the technology was so far ahead of what consumers actually wanted to do with their devices. He left Nokia and started Mobile Mentor to solve that problem. He hired an army of tech-savvy people who would sit with business customers and get help them get their smartphones working and allow them to be productive, subsequently learning a lot about what drives technology adoption and habits.
Today, remote workers may have two or three devices, plus personal devices. They work from home, the office, and they travel. Most of the work Mobile Mentor does currently is getting those devices to work and, most importantly, making sure they are secure.
Since the number of remote workers skyrocketed with COVID, and many organizations did not implement or prioritize proper security, there was, and continues to be, an avalanche of hacks and ransomware. Ransomware attacks are up 500% since the start of the pandemic, tragically targeting schools, hospitals, and municipal organizations.
In addition, with the chip shortage, many corporations could not get enough devices for remote workers and had to depend on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). The use of domestic internet sources also ratcheted up the risk profile.
One thing that organizations can do to reduce risk is to get rid of using passwords. Passwords were a fantastic idea in 1961, but in 2021, data showed they are the primary reason organizations were getting hacked. Most attacks start with a compromised password from a phishing operation.
Knowledge workers today have a ridiculous number of passwords. Yet only 31% of people use a password management tool. Another 31% write their work passwords in a personal journal, and 24% write their passwords on a Notes application on their smartphones. Alarmingly, according to a BBC study last year, 15% of the British population used their pet’s name as a password and 6% use the word “password.”
The first step in getting away from passwords is embracing biometrics. Now, an iPhone or a Windows Surface machine scans your face and logs you into the operating system and all of the single sign-on applications and third-party applications where you have that federated identity. That’s a great start. The future of reducing password use will be a combination of biometrics and two-factor authentication everywhere. In the interim, while there are still legacy identity infrastructure and legacy applications where biometrics won’t work, a password management tool makes sense.
Mobile Mentor surveyed the industry by generation and found that Generation Z has the most passwords. Many of these people in their early twenties joined the workforce and onboarded remotely during the pandemic. In many cases, they have never met their employer and have not experienced the social connections that happen in a work environment. They’ve got a unique lens in the way they assess their employer.
Mobile Mentor’s research shows that people have a preference to work at home, but across all industries, they believe they are more productive in an office setting. This is an interesting dilemma and dichotomy for the employer to try and get these people in the office. The research shows that 67% of Gen Z thinks other companies are doing a better job at providing technology for their employees. So, if an employer pushes for them to come into the office, they may choose a different job. Changing a job nowadays doesn’t mean changing your commute or anything else beyond using a different laptop. This is part of what is happening with the great resignation.
With this dynamic, the technology experience matters. Research shows that it takes on average three days to get a laptop fully configured for work, compared to two days for an office worker. A remote workers need to raise three service desk tickets on average to get their device up and running, so their experience can be painful. They don’t like the stigma of asking for help.
The best way to fix this problem is to simplify the process. Zero-touch provisioning is ideal, which is the process of getting the technology configured so a company can drop ship devices to a remote employee, and when they sign in with work credentials, the devices auto configure. Everything is working in less than an hour, and no one in IT has had to manually configure the devices, repackage, and ship them to the employee. There is a lot of work upfront to make this happen, but Mobile Mentor can help clients with this process.
Denis’ advice to CIOs for this issue is to position privacy and security as two sides of the same coin. Gen Z can be brought onboard to security if it’s couched in protecting their own, as well as the company’s, data and by extension that of their clients.
Mobile Mentor’s research shows that shadow IT is being driven and accelerated by remote workers. Remote workers who live far away from headquarters might be participating in an IT team they’ve never met and are finding applications and storage mechanisms and ways of communicating and collaborating that their companies don’t know about. The lines between personal and work are also blurring. People use personal devices for work, and almost half let their family members play with their work devices. The same number find their company security policies too restrictive and a third say they have found a way to work around the policies. Two thirds say they find that they are more efficient when they use consumer-grade apps such as Gmail and Dropbox.
Denis advises CIOs to engage remote workers in future product decisions because they are the ones who will pressure test the collaboration tools, storage tools, applications, and authentication process faster than anyone who is based in an office.
For more information about Mobile Mentor, go to mobile-mentor.com. There is a separate website, endpointecosystem.com, where they share all of their research for free to educate and inform companies about what’s going on with remote workers to help avoid the next wave of cyber attacks and to improve the onboarded employee technology experience.
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