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A New CIO Mandate: Regaining Employee Trust


When  it  comes  to  using  their  own  phones  for  work,  employees  are  less  sure  about whether their employer is spying on them than two years ago.  The gap between employee/employers  trust   is  widening  at  5%  per  year.  Uncertainty about privacy is driving the drop in trust.  CIO’s have a mandate to remove the uncertainty and regain employee trust.


According to a recent study by MobileIron, employees who said they “completely trust” their companies to guard their personal privacy dropped to just 21% in 2015 from 30% in 2013. The participants in the survey who said they “trust” dropped from 66% in 2013 to 61% in 2015. 

Ironically, there was also a substantial drop in the personal discomfort levels indicated by participants in the survey across all the different personal content categories between 2013 to 2015 (personal email, contacts, texts, etc.). You can see the original MobileIron infographic here.

So employee discomfort has gone down, AND their trust has gone down. This seems counterintuitive until you consider two items.

The first is that employees are becoming more uncertain and less informed about privacy-related issues when it comes to using their personal phone for work. I’ve extracted the relevant raw data from MobileIron’s survey and charted here in figure 2.

Figure 2 – Employees Are Growing More Uncertain About Privacy

Even the certainty of those who believed in 2013 that their company had access to no personal information on their personal device has dropped by 7% in 2015. I spoke with Ojas Rege, VP Strategy at MobileIron, to get his take on the irony. Here is what he had to say.

“Consumers are becoming more aware of privacy issues in general (data breaches, etc.), so their trust in institutions (including their employers) has dropped. But consumers also deal with a lot of uncertainties – their perception of what can be seen (in the work context at least) is not that correct. In the work context, employers have still not done a good job of addressing that uncertainty and communicating privacy policies and actions clearly. So employees are learning to live with uncertainty and their discomfort with that uncertainty has decreased even though their trust has not increased.”

I think there are some lessons to be learned and some actions to be taken by enterprise leaders: They include;

1. BYOD and The Consumerization of IT are more about people, process, and user experience than it is about tech. This important for IT, HR and Business Leaders to digest

2. People have to trust tech. IT organizations that will survive and thrive will strike a balance between deployments of tech and deployments of business value. Remember that people drive business; technologies are tools that enable people.

3. Treat the trust gap very seriously. 40-50% of your employees are still NOT comfortable with employers seeing personal content, AND they trust you less than they did two years ago.

As business leaders, we must be mindful that transparency drives trust while uncertainty enables mistrust. We must never take employee trust for granted.

I am the first to acknowledge that this should be obvious, but all too often I run into exceptions. For example, the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) should be a watershed moment for enterprise leaders. Sadly, many organizations equate CoIT specifically to mobile or some misplaced consumer euphoria. The companies who I see that demonstrate leadership understands that CoIT is more about people, process and experiences than it is about tech. Think Uber. Think Apple. Uber is about the experience and owns no tech. Apple hides tech and promotes a great experience. What they have in common is that success and failure of both Uber and Apple centers on trust. Likewise, as enterprise leaders, trust needs to be a cornerstone of your mobile initiatives.

The real value of employing mobile, irrespective of the device ownership model (BYOD, COPE, etc.), is employee satisfaction and productivity. As many companies have discovered that means providing employees useful apps and services on the devices they choose beyond just email and calendaring. But we have to be mindful that adoption limits occur by trust and user experience. Trust and great user experience are the cornerstones of how we increase business velocity and business impact through innovation.

Rege goes on to say: “A culture of trust between employer and employee – is driven by transparency, communication, and education. Business leaders need to get on the ball – Establish and communicate policies clearly – and reinforce them often. If you don’t have the foundation of trust, you will always struggle with adoption. And 39% of employees are saying that a foundation trust still isn’t there.”

Wrapping up

Many companies have asked employees to agree (usually electronically) to long and short form legal BYOD agreements when they enroll their personal phone. Just like when we as consumers download mobile applications from commercial application stores, we don’t read these agreements. I think one message here is that we need to think about more innovative ways to use graphics and videos to help employees get the picture and remove the uncertainties to close the trust gap.

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