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HR & Culture

What Capital One’s Data Breach Shows About Online Risk

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What Capital One’s Data Breach Shows About Online Risk

The New York Times, CNN, and other media outlets recently published articles reporting that a software engineer in Seattle allegedly hacked into a server and obtained the personal data of over 100 million customers at Capital One. While this is not the first time Capital One has faced a major data breach, there were two things that made this case particularly notable. First, the breach is estimated to cost the bank up to $150 million and has been said to be one of the largest bank data breaches in history. Second, and of particular interest to HR leaders: the warning signs of this data breach were available right on public social media.

The suspect was Paige Thompson, 33, a former software engineer at Amazon Web Services, which hosted the database that was breached. Using the online alias “erratic,” Thompson had in many ways the persona typical of a software engineer in Seattle. She fretted about her dating life and participated in programming chatter. However, her habit of oversharing also left a trail of digital breadcrumbs that led the FBI to her door. Thompson allegedly bragged about the breach on Twitter; shortly after the breach was discovered, she tweeted, “I have a whole list of things that will ensure my involuntary confinement from the world. I’m never coming back.”

Could Capital One have prevented this particular breach using social media data? Well, no. Thompson was not a Capital One employee, and the ‘trail of breadcrumbs’ that identified her as the suspect behind the hack was left after the breach had already occurred. But suppose Thompson was an employee at Capital One, or even Amazon. If that were the case, Amazon and Capital One could have had reams of information that painted a picture of who she was—a skilled programmer with a troubled past—and used social media to help prevent the attack.

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How to Keep Online Screening Simple (In 3 Steps)

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How to Keep Online Screening Simple (In 3 Steps)

New ways of screening candidates often raise new questions. Even when your legal questions around online screening are answered and you’re confident that you’ve got compliance figured out, plenty of operational questions remain. When working with our clients, we sometimes hear that our users are overwhelmed by all the scenarios they might encounter when working with publicly available online information. How are you supposed to incorporate an entirely new form of information into your hiring process without derailing your current approach?

Good news—there’s not much you need to do at all. In fact, the information that comes to you in a digital screening report isn’t all that different from information that comes to you in an interview or through a reference check. Online screening uses the same frameworks that HR departments are already using to make smart and ethical hiring decisions, while offering a new and pertinent form of information. That means there are essentially three possible actions you can take when reviewing a candidate’s online information.

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Social Media and Law Enforcement: The Benefits and Drawbacks

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Social Media and Law Enforcement: The Benefits and Drawbacks

Being a police officer is tough. On a daily basis, police officers put their lives on the line, work long and irregular hours, and deal with a nearly unparalleled level of public scrutiny. While the vast majority of officers are aware of the high ethical standards to which they’re held and make major personal sacrifices to ensure the public trust, a few bad apples have unfortunately damaged that sense of public trust and created a problem for officers across the country.

In recent weeks, media outlets have been writing about the Plain View Project, a collection of over 5,000 inflammatory social media posts made by police officers in departments across the US. For members of distressed communities in particular, this review of police behavior on Facebook has confirmed many people’s worst suspicions about law enforcement, suggesting that the police are not to be trusted, or there to protect them. While the project has shown that there are concerning behaviors that departments might consider addressing, it has also damaged the reputations of many dedicated officers who work hard to ensure public safety.

What can police departments do to restore the trust they’ve worked to build? Though there’s no silver bullet, one step that law enforcement agencies can take is to identify inflammatory and toxic behaviors before they have a chance to enter your department.

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Leadership Isn't a Role—It's a Series of Behaviors

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Leadership Isn't a Role—It's a Series of Behaviors

Today’s blog comes from executive coach and leadership consultant Julie Diamond, the founder of Diamond Leadership. With over 30 years of experience in the field of human and organizational change, Julie is the author of Power: A User’s Guide, and a co-founder of the Power² Leaderlab, a leadership program for women leaders. At Fama, we’ve discussed how power operates in the workplace, and how abuses of power undermine business success. In today’s post, Julie adds another dimension to this discussion, emphasizing that your success comes down to the day-to-day behaviors of your organization’s leadership.

We know there is a deep connection between culture and organizational outcomes. When culture is done right, it unleashes tremendous energy, harnessing a diverse set of talents towards shared organizational goals. But a culture that is hostile and dysfunctional cripples the organization’s capacity and drives away talent.

While each and every employee plays a role in creating an organization’s culture, it’s the leadership that has the power to make or break the workplace culture. Why? Because “leaders bring the weather.” The things leaders say and do signal to the entire organization what behaviors are permitted, and their impact on employees is so great that the behavior of company leaders is often mimicked throughout an organization.

While the above are flagrant and scandalous examples of leadership gone awry, organizational culture can also be eroded by subtle, seemingly insignificant behaviors, off-the-cuff comments, and even nonverbal behaviors. Leaders don’t have to yell, scream, or engage in unethical behavior to undermine culture. In fact, most of what constitutes culture is tacit and subtle. It comes down to two questions: how does it feel, and how do people relate to each other?

These may seem like soft and fuzzy questions, but how things feel on a day to day basis is critical to people’s ability to do good work and, therefore, to the organization’s ability to meet its goals. As an executive coach, I’m often asked by my clients how they can create cultures of engagement, inclusion, and high performance. The answer? Learn how to effectively use your power.

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Have Toxic Workplaces Become the Norm?

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Have Toxic Workplaces Become the Norm?

Toxic behavior in the workplace seems more common than ever before. Last year, the Oxford English Dictionary famously elected “toxic” as its Word of the Year, calling out the ways that toxic behavior has infiltrated the world of business. In the last few months, numerous studies and surveys are confirming this phenomenon as well. In a recent survey of tech workers by the anonymous workplace app Blind, more than 50% of respondents said they were working in a noxious work environment. In another survey conducted by the RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School and UCLA, nearly 20% of employees across industries said the same thing. Given that anywhere from 20-50% of employees believe they’re working in a toxic environment, is it fair to say that toxic workplaces have become the norm?

It’s certainly tempting to think so. If you subscribe to our newsletter, where we do a regular news roundup on how companies around the world are working to protect culture, you’ll find that almost every month there is yet another company in the headlines for a scandal related to toxic behavior. We’re not the only ones reporting on these phenomena either. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is now an official medical diagnosis, and that’s leading more and more people to resign themselves to toxicity as a natural state of the workplace. But in our tendency to resign ourselves, perhaps confiding in a trusted colleague or trying to leave for greener pastures, we forget that you can actually take steps to identify combat toxicity in your workplace—and the numbers prove it.

When you look past the figures on how much toxicity people are feeling and explore what the numbers have to say about who responds to HR-based interventions, you’ll see that with the problem may be far easier to deal with than you originally thought, and there are two reasons why. First, it turns out that even though many people believe they’re in a toxic work environment (and, according to our industry benchmark data, are spot on in their assessment), the individuals who might require training and intervention to change usually comprise about 10-15% of your organization. Second, the numbers show that the vast majority of employees who do exhibit toxic behaviors—up to 95% of them—can be addressed with proper identification and action.

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How Online Behaviors Are Impacting Your Bottom Line

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How Online Behaviors Are Impacting Your Bottom Line

Many of us have experienced toxic behavior in the workplace. Though many of us use stories and anecdotes to illustrate and process our experiences, few of us have had access to quantifiable data when attempting to communicate the importance of managing these behaviors at work. What are the full costs of toxic workplace behavior? To help organizations get clarity around the value of reducing toxic behavior in the workplace, we’ve anonymized and aggregated a trove of data around this question, and taken it upon ourselves to use this data to provide meaningful insight for companies around the world.

Last year, we kick-started this conversation by publishing a study called "The Cost of a Toxic Hire.” It was a breakthrough resource showing how much money companies were losing to the turnover and absenteeism caused by toxic employees. While the response was overwhelmingly positive, we recognized that companies were losing far more than $1.2 million per year. We soon found even more information about how much market cap companies were losing to toxic behavior, and the measures that boards are now taking to protect their companies from the fallout of insidious workplace events.

Earlier this year, we launched the Toxic Employee Handbook with Dr. John Sullivan, a renowned influencer in the world of talent management. This newly released handbook covered over 40 distinct categories of damage caused by toxic employees and offered new tools to start building a business case for formal toxic behavior reduction efforts. Again, the response was overwhelmingly positive. More and more companies are looking to understand the full extent of damages that toxic employees inflict on our businesses and to discover ways they can identify them before they harm our organizations.

Still, we get questions about the value of certain preventative methods. As the leading provider of online background screening, we’ve worked with hundreds of clients to develop strategies to identify workplace behaviors ranging from subtle bigotry to violent threats. Even though more than 70% of employers today research candidates on social media before hiring them, we’re often asked: why should I look online to keep my company safe from bad hires?

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Why Social Media is Healthcare’s Biggest Risk

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Why Social Media is Healthcare’s Biggest Risk

As of 2019, nurses and doctors have been voted the most trusted professions in the United States. While this is great news for the healthcare industry, there are also good reasons for this designation. We trust nurses and doctors with our health and safety. So when we find a provider that treats us with care, we’re relieved to find they have our best interest in mind. However, trust can be easily broken, and as new technologies transform the profession, we see two forces making that trust harder to regain.

Today, there’s a steady rise in HIPAA violations on social media putting privacy at risk, and a long-standing epidemic of toxic behavior making its way online and threatening the basic safety of patients and staff. In this blog, we’ll explain how these issues play out on social media and the public web, and lay out why these mistakes are costly both for patients and the providers they trust…

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The reason we still don’t understand culture risk

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The reason we still don’t understand culture risk

Cultural and reputational risks are becoming more and more common for enterprises today. As companies across business sectors find themselves suffering reputational damage over some form of toxic behavior or unethical business decision, a growing number of executives are starting to see culture as a direct contributor to the bottom line. While the increasing awareness around these issues is encouraging from a social standpoint, many executives are still unsure how to tangibly improve their company culture. According to Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends Report, 82% of executives say that culture is a potential competitive advantage, yet only 12% believe they’re driving the “right culture.”

How is it possible that only 12% believe they’re driving the right culture? In part, it’s because the processes that executives and board members have in place aren’t giving them the signals they need. Despite the fact that information is essential to understanding and managing culture risk, especially in a digitized and media-driven business environment, 65% of CEOs and 62% of board members today say they lack a process for identifying signals of potential culture risk. This leaves companies prone to a range of negative consequences ranging from consumer backlash to a spike in turnover.

How can there be such a lack of process for identifying signals of potential culture risk?

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The Social Media Policy That Boosts Productivity at Work

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The Social Media Policy That Boosts Productivity at Work

As HR professionals, we do everything in our power to ensure that productivity stays high. To keep our employees engaged, we offer remote work options and competitive perks. We double down on diversity and inclusion programs to make sure everyone can enjoy a safe and welcoming workplace. But when it comes to social media, we’re often not sure what to do. More and more sources say that to see real success, leaders need to let go of “culture control” and enable a culture that yields productivity instead. But how does social media impact productivity—and how do you make it work for you?

It’s not exactly straightforward. On the one hand, social media without restrictions can be a source of genuine distraction and, by some estimates, make up 13% of an organization’s lost productivity. On the other hand, cracking down on social media for the sake of output can be a serious hit to morale. To be among the most innovative and agile companies in the market, we need to figure out a way to balance the benefits of social media to productivity while minimizing potential risks. But what’s the approach?

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