Trusting Employees to Make Good IT Decisions

It may be time for a corporate updating of the wistful saying, misattributed to John Lennon, that goes, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” It should now be, “Workplace tech is what happens when IT makes other plans.” With the best of intentions, and not a small amount of professional diligence, IT and security teams carefully select and provision approved applications and digital services for employees to use.

Said employees are not much impressed, it seems, with 63% of Gen Z workers and 40% of millennials thinking their workplace tools are unreliable, hard to navigate and difficult to integrate with other tools. As a result, we are in a “shadow IT crisis.” Employees are taking matters into their own hands and purchasing the tech tools and services they prefer. They use credit cards to bypass official company solutions. Some estimate that as much as 40% of corporate spending on IT is taking place outside of the IT budget.

“The report is an eye opener,” said Matt Chiodi, Chief Trust Officer at Cerby. “It reveals a significant gap between corporate trust practices and employee sentiment.

Is this good or bad? It depends on whom you ask. The IT department doesn’t like it, and it’s not hard to see why. The practice is inherently insecure and costly to manage, if the IT department can even get enough visibility to manage digital services taking place outside their domain. Corporate data can end up anywhere, and often does.

From an employee perspective, though, the practice is a boon to productivity. The consumerization of IT has led employees, especially younger people, to expect a modern user experience that is not always available in enterprise solutions. They also demand more control over how they use tech to do their jobs.

Matt Chiodi, Chief Trust Officer at Cerby

Matt Chiodi, Chief Trust Officer at Cerby

The issue actually goes a bit deeper than just tech and spending. It’s about trust and corporate culture. Should employees be truste

d to select the tools they want? This is the question asked by Cerby, a company whose solutions protect “unmanageable applications” that lack support for common identity standards like single sign-on. They conducted a survey on the subject and released a State of Employee Trust Report.

“The report is an eye opener,” said Matt Chiodi, Chief Trust Officer at Cerby. “It reveals a significant gap between corporate trust practices and employee sentiment. Forcing employees to use only a limited selection of approved digital services sends a message that the company does not trust its people—a message that has an impact on productivity, as well as employee happiness, workplace satisfaction, and loyalty.”

Indeed, the report found, for example, that 92% of respondents agreed with the notion that “IT needs to get out of the way and let me do my job.” It also shows that employees rank trust as more important than financial compensation. Forty-seven percent of employees and managers say they would take a 20% cut in pay in return for higher trust by their employer. Additionally, employees most valued flexibility (48%), autonomy (42%), and being empowered to choose the applications needed to work effectively (39%). A striking 81% of employees felt increased energy, happiness, productivity, and contribution when employers demonstrated trust.

It’s hard to know if people would actually accept a pay cut in return for increased trust, but the finding is startling, nonetheless. It shows how trust could be viewed as an element of employee compensation. Trust apparently has a tangible value to employees. Managers would be wise to pay attention to this insight.

Organizations that don’t recognize the problem are heading for lose-lose scenario where employees download and use unmanageable apps they believe will boost their own productivity. Cyber risk exposure grows while people feel untrusted.

There is a way out of this jam, however. Employees want freedom. They want to be trusted to choose their own tech tools. If an organization wants to extend that trust, it needs to make unmanageable apps manageable and secure.

Cerby offers a solution by connecting unmanageable app to corporate identity providers like Okta and Microsoft’s Azure AD. Cerby discovers new applications and eliminates manual security tasks like offboarding.

Securing unmanageable apps will not solve the entire employee trust problem on its own, but it would be a big step in the right direction. People could use the tools they prefer, while IT and security teams would not have to worry so much about shadow IT.