In the age of social media, anyone can be a journalist. In an article about bad employee behaviors gone viral, Erik Deutsch of the LA-based ExcelPR group said that the ability to post anything in real time and make it accessible to the entire world has forced companies to rethink risk management. “If someone was mistreated in a store 15 years ago, they might make a scene and tell their friends, and that would be it,” he says. “Now, they post it online and it can become a sensation.”
As headlines around workplace harassment, bigotry, and violence suggest, individual departments are struggling to mitigate people-based risk on their own. HR is overwhelmed with paperwork; PR is scrambling to react quickly enough to control the narrative when bad news breaks; security teams are ill-prepared to handle allegations that boil down to “he said, she said” disputes; IT is asked to manage a growing set of channels not necessarily optimized for security. The new reality of people risk is exposing major cracks in traditional organizational structures. Unless companies adopt new approaches to people risk management (PRM), it will be increasingly difficult to stay ahead of potential threats.
So what’s on the horizon for people risk management? Moving forward, we will see significant shifts in structure, process, and technology to promote deeper collaboration between HR, risk, digital communications, and IT. While organizations will take a variety of approaches to mitigate these new threats, we predict three general trends.
How HR's role in employer branding will change
Risk departments will increasingly be responsible for people risk. Though risk departments have traditionally focused on issues related to compliance, fraud, and corporate investigations, vulnerabilities created by employee behavior are now just as costly. As a result, risk departments will move towards people and reputation-focused risk prevention efforts in 2019. Increasingly, they will advise on people risk procedures related to sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and insider threats.
HR will partner more closely with other departments. As the potential impacts of adverse behaviors continue to rise, workplace disputes and issues will go beyond the scope of HR departments. HR will work more closely with IT and security departments to not only put out fires but also become more proactive in identifying incidents before they escalate. On the flip side, as security departments focus more on identifying and preventing toxic workplace behaviors such as bigotry and sexism, security interventions will more often consist of training or mediation, which will require collaboration with HR.
IT will be more involved in creating strategies and guidelines for digital communications. More and more companies have global social media policies that dictate how company representatives should use social media, how employees use social media at work, and how social media can be used in hiring. As companies invest more heavily in their digital and social strategies, IT will play an even bigger role in securing social interactions and digital communications across all channels in the organization.
In the future of work, creating a safe, welcoming, and equitable workplace with fewer people-based risks will be every department’s responsibility. As consumers demand greater integrity from all aspects of business, departments that had once been siloed operators will collaborate in new ways to address this issue and leverage new tools to tackle a new generation of enterprise threats.