Who is the Next Gen Worker?

Who is the Next Gen Worker?

New workers must be agile and be able to adapt quickly

Today’s workplace is far different from 15, five, even two years ago. Employees are expected to get more done, in a shorter amount of time, with more distractions than ever before. In today’s business environment, workers are inundated with a constant barrage of emails, calls, video conferencing requests and group chats. As such, employees are expected to understand all different types of technologies, devices, applications and platforms.

As the workplace has evolved, so have the employees that support it. This new breed of employee is what we like to call the “the next generation of workers.” The next-gen worker needs to be agile and adapt more quickly to different types of tools and devices, which means successful employers are those that prioritize seamless tools, training, integration and connectivity for this new workforce. As one can imagine, this can lead to some interesting security challenges and even more creative solutions.

Who Exactly is the Next-gen Worker?

Unlike previous generations, this new class of workers are techsavvy digital-natives that are increasingly on the go and always connected. Having grown up with a constant stream of technological innovations, they know exactly what they do and don’t like in tech. This new labor force is quick to decide what type of technology works best for them, whether they’re at work, home or somewhere in between. Although these next-gen workers are fast to decide what type of tech they prefer, employees lack an in-depth understanding of the security vulnerabilities that each and every device and application presents.

As employers begin to embrace trends like the virtual office, the next generation of workers are no longer chained to their desk and able to work from home, on the plane or half way around the world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23 percent of employees reported doing some of their work remotely in 2015, up from 19 percent in 2003 – and that number only continues to grow. These employees no longer subscribe to the notion that being in the office from 9 to 5 every day is necessary or produces a better quality of work. With more employees working from home and on-the-go, the next-generation workforce needs reliable and secure access to the network and corporate resources from any location.

Connect from Anything…

Along with the uptick in folks working remotely, employees now rely on their own devices, like laptops, mobile phones and tablets, to do much of their work. As such, the “bring your own device” (BYOD) movement has become the norm with 60 percent of companies already implementing a BYOD policy in 2016, according to recent reports, with estimates from Gartner suggesting that half of all employees will be using their own devices by 2017. Trends like BYOD support the demands of next gen workers, enabling them to reduce the overall number of devices they use and also allow them to choose the devices that will make them happiest and most productive. They can use their own devices to check work email, download documents and access the corporate VPN and SaaS applications. Employees also regularly switch from iOS to Windows operating systems and need the ability to easily alternate between the two.

…To Anything

These days, the next-generation workforce relies more heavily on cloud-based applications, for their ease of use and consistency across devices. In addition to the VPN, enterprise workers need fast and secure access to regularly used cloud applications like Office 365 and other non- Microsoft services such as Salesforce and Dropbox. Workers want to enjoy and leverage the apps that they know and love, all while integrating with the traditional apps that IT provides. Even with these cloud applications, it’s important for enterprise IT to implement strong network access control (NAC) policies, which allow the right user with the right device permission to get on the network. This is not typically considered for cloud based applications, but is just as relevant as it is for datacenter access.

If done well, your employees shouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. Additionally, a wide variety of apps that workers use in their personal lives now have a utility for work, Evernote, being a great example. Applications like this let individuals and teams share and collaborate on content from anywhere, on any device.

As workers take advantage of cloudbased applications and platforms, they will also need access to their organization’s corporate data centers. Many businesses continue to employ some legacy IT architectures, and employees continue to need to access these systems quickly and efficiently. Workers need to seamlessly access important data, media and documents, regardless of whether it’s on premise, in the cloud or a hybrid environment.

Keep it Secure

Don’t leave security up to the workers. In the past, a lot of IT departments sanctioned uses for personal devices in the workplace but put the onus on the user to keep the device secure and current with all of the necessary updates. But it should actually be the employer’s responsibility to provide workers with safe and secure access to the cloud, the corporate data center and various applications.

Also, organizations should educate workers on the various security policies, procedures and products that have been put in place to protect employees and corporate data. Typically, organizations will deploy corporate workspace solutions to user’s devices which will ensure a level of IT control without impeding a worker’s privacy. Rolling reminders and training should also be put in place to keep information security top of mind for new and existing staff.

Keep it Simple

In addition to providing your employees with secure access, it’s imperative to make things easy for this new breed of workers. Across all devices and applications, workers today want fast and intuitive access. Employees simply don’t have time to download separate applications and set up complicated logins. They demand uninterrupted, intuitive and secure access.

The minute things get too complicated is the minute you risk having an employee take a shortcut and jeopardize the security of their device and potentially the entire company’s infrastructure. Historically, things like passwords have been a huge pain point for employees. These days, authentication to devices should be something simple and local like a fingerprint. Identity is quickly becoming the new password and can lead to a better user experience for employees. Other small steps like single sign-on for laptops with device identity and device compliance will allow workers to quickly access their devices in the most secure way possible.

What’s in it for You?

Why take these extra steps to ensure secure access for your workers? Simple offerings like seamless VPN connectivity create a more productive workforce, ensuring that employees aren’t wasting valuable time unsuccessfully trying to connect to the network. Additionally, sophisticated BYOD policies improve employee satisfaction, enabling workers to feel secure, all while knowing their privacy is respected. Workers are able to balance the ability to use the device of their choosing with the security necessary to keep corporate assets safe and worker’s data private.

Taking the time to better understand next generation of workers and their needs is vital to ensuring the security and productivity of today’s businesses. The modern enterprise worker needs access to corporate resources, from any location and any device. And employers must give their workers the ability to access these or lose employees to other companies that will.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Security Today.

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