The Hidden Security Risk of the Great Resignation by Bertrand Ramé

The Great Resignation, a term coined in May 2021, has been well documented, with reports detailing the record numbers of people leaving their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. Due to various factors, from workplace culture to pay dissatisfaction, this trend has accelerated with one in five workers planning to quit their jobs in 2022, according to PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey of more than 52,000 workers in 44 countries and territories, conducted in March 2022.

This obviously poses a challenge to organizations as it creates not only high turnover, but a talent, knowledge, and skills drain that is difficult to manage. However, the threat that some organizations seem to be overlooking is the security risk inherent in the complexity of managing systems and network access rights to such a large volume of users at such an accelerated rate. Every employee who leaves needs to be removed from group chats, networks, shared documents, and Unified Communications (UC) platforms. 

This is creating a huge administrative strain on already overburdened IT teams, who need to disconnect these users from UC, HRIS and ITSM systems among others, within a limited time frame before they can pose any kind of security risk. 

“Hybrid Work”

Business leaders are facing a challenge no leaders have faced before. The way we live and work has been changed forever by the pandemic, but corporate policies and practices may not have always kept pace with accelerating changes elsewhere.

One practice that has increased is hybrid/remote working, and workplaces offering flexibility, with Google Workspace’s recent global survey finding that over 75% of respondents believe that hybrid/flexible work will be a standard practice within their organizations in the next couple of years. This was also one of the factors driving higher employee turnover during The Great Resignation. As a result, there has been a change in perspective and we are seeing organizations offer hybrid work options on a more regular and consistent basis, especially in light of factors such as surging new COVID strains and the international heat wave. 

So, what does this mean for IT teams?

One area where we are seeing a huge amount of attention from IT leaders is removing users from UC systems as employee turnover increases. If we look back to pre-pandemic times, users may typically have had access to one or two collaboration tools. Now, with the proliferation of UC apps and other tools enabling remote work, the task of unwinding departing staff is much more complex. It’s not uncommon for example, for companies to rely on Zoom for video conferencing, Cisco for external communications and Teams for internal collaboration.

Having to manage what are now multi-platform, multi-vendor, hybrid cloud environments means that the task of deprovisioning has become not just more complex, but increasingly important.

The Security Risks

Organizations are not just risking overworked, unhappy IT workers, but there is a real security risk when deprovisioning users off multiple apps on this scale. IT teams need to have control over who can access different systems and tools–and from where–on a granular level to ensure the security of solutions and create safe environments. If users are not deprovisioned correctly, or quickly enough, organizations could be opening themselves up to security threats.

Imagine an employee that has left for a competitor but still has access to conversations from their previous employer. This undermines secure communications, which are a must-have for any organization, and business leaders need to ensure conversations between employees, shareholders, clients, and team leaders remain protected.

Data breaches and leaks have financial and reputational consequences for organizations, and as a result, teams need an effective data security strategy in place across their UC stack to ensure data is protected at all times.

The Urgent Need for UC Automation

One obvious solution to these challenges is simplifying and automating user onboarding and off-boarding.

By automating the day-to-day UC operations (moves, adds, changes, deletes and corresponding workflows and processes) the manual workload of IT teams is greatly reduced as administrators can manage their entire UC ecosystem via a single user interface or “single pane of glass,” increasing productivity and saving on operational costs.

As a result, overburdened IT teams can assign day-to-day UC management tasks to employees without advanced technical skills, including help desk staff and HR assistants, freeing up UC specialists for more advanced projects.

“The Great Resignation” is not a stand-alone, one-time event, but may mark a permanent rise in employee churn levels. As a result of the strain this will put on organizations, specifically IT teams, seamless automation of UC management is a necessary solution both now and in the future.

As UC tool adoption, hybrid work, and employee churn continue to accelerate, automation platforms allow companies to align their communication services in one easily manageable environment, thus heightening security and protection against risks of data leaks and breaches that are an inevitable result of these rapid changes.

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About the Author: Michael O'Sullivan