Human Resources

Keep Employees’ Identity Safe and Boost Productivity

Data and identity theft have become big problems in the modern, interconnected business world. With tips on educating employees on the risk (while nurturing productivity at the same time), we present an article by Matt Cullina, CEO of IDT911, a global provider of identity management and data risk services.

As many of you know, a company’s Human Resources (HR) team has many responsibilities, and maximizing the organization’s human capital assets is among them. Hiring the best candidates is just one aspect of that mission. Another is ensuring that productivity levels aren’t hampered by absenteeism or other worker-related concerns.

HR’s efforts to maintain an efficient workforce are often challenged when an employee is impacted by identity theft or fraud. Cybercrime victims are frequently left to sort out the issue on their own, reducing their ability to perform their jobs as they wade through credit reports, contact financial institutions, gather documentation requested by law enforcement, and generally try to put their financial lives back together.

Fortunately, a combination of strategies can help HR teams mitigate the damage felt by identity theft victims and ensure the company’s productivity remains high.

HR Managers Have Tools to Assist Employees Affected by Identity Theft

Identity theft continues to top the list of complaints from consumers, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2015 Consumer Sentinel. With the prevalence of data breaches and related fraud showing no signs of abating, employers are in a unique position to help their workers avoid becoming another identity theft statistic. At the same time, HR teams and benefits managers also have an opportunity to limit potential productivity issues that may impact the organization if employees fall prey to cyber criminals.

Employee absenteeism often rises when identity theft occurs, as victims use time during the business day to navigate the fraud resolution process. Stress levels also climb any time financial issues crop up, further diminishing an employee’s ability to focus on his or her work duties. “As we all know, if someone is having financial difficulty—whether their identity has been stolen or a family member is grappling with identity theft—their mind is not on their job,” says Joel Ray, CEO of New Benefits.

The personal damage suffered by fraud victims may be a more immediate concern than the organization’s longer-term declines in performance, but both are serious issues that HR managers can work to address. By educating employees and offering them a data protection and identity management support service, employers can reduce or eliminate several challenges commonly triggered by data exposures.

Prepare Employees for Cyber Incidents

Because identity theft is a looming threat—concerns that are brought into sharp relief every time a new data breach hits the headlines—many employers are choosing to take steps to proactively prepare their employees for a possible cyber incident. Whether their data are exposed by a breach at a major retailer or their local doctor’s office, individuals who are able to respond effectively to a potential identity theft or fraud incident will resolve their problems sooner and with a better rate of success.

Employers can begin by giving employees actionable information. Encourage workers to review their financial statements regularly and their credit reports at least once a year. This practice doesn’t cost anything and enables individuals to spot suspicious activity early. With the rise in medical identity fraud, employees should also be diligent in reviewing any provider account statements and explanation-of-benefits documentation to see if questionable services have been recorded.

It’s also useful to give workers routine reminders about how to safely conduct themselves online. Stress to them the need for strong passwords, especially on websites that contain financial and health data—banking is the most obvious, but retirement and investment accounts, along with medical providers’ patient portals, should also be treated as a high priority.

Be sure employees know the dangers of using the same password across multiple sites (a compromise in one location could trigger security concerns elsewhere, too). And no matter what type of websites an employee visits, they should be mindful about updating their antivirus software regularly at home, as well as at work, to help keep them one step ahead of cyber criminals.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, Cullina discusses another benefit of preventing identity theft among employees—it protects your business as well.