Keeping compliant as Australia’s workforce defaults to digital

Keeping compliant as Australia’s workforce defaults to digital

Jeremy Paton, Team Engagement Solutions Lead, APAC, Avaya, examines how evolving consumer habits and expectations can affect the cybersecurity of businesses while staying compliant.

Australia’s appetite for digital services is rampant. While there’s still a time and place for doing things in person, the pandemic catapulted Aussies’ expectation for the convenience of accessing goods and services online to new heights.

Whether it’s to buy groceries and clothes, speak to GPs and psychologists, pay bills, find a home, or engage with companies and government agencies, the promise of instant gratification through digital interactions is the status quo for most demographics.

But it’s not just a matter of ease. It’s also about the ability for services to be personalized based on data from previous interactions. As consumers, we are all a bit fickle and expect to have it our way.

Whether for business or pleasure, we have limited patience to wait in queues and demand to get our hands on purchases right away. We expect issues to be resolved in real-time, the first time, and also loathe repeating ourselves – we want the companies we contact to know about our desires and issues and handle them proactively.

Australian companies have invested millions to accommodate this evolving consumer behavior. Supermarkets supercharged their apps, venues adopted check-in systems and governments added feature after feature to their online offerings.

As businesses fund efforts to get to know their customers better, the increase in digitalization has increased risks. This risk isn’t just in the form of potential cyberthreats which are now well understood and heavily publicized – it’s also in the shape of inadvertent privacy and compliance lapses.

Having recently fired a trader as part of a compliance sweep, HSBC reportedly reminded staff that apps like WhatsApp shouldn’t be used to engage clients, as unauthorized channels like these fell outside regulatory obligations. Whether any data is compromised is a moot point.

Consumer-grade smartphone applications are extremely common in professional contexts, and personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data are regularly shared through these platforms.

An alternative route

In a large number of cases, the reasons are far from malicious – negligence can be blamed for a percentage of them, but in many instances, they occur because workers face roadblocks when trying to do their jobs and so they look for alternative means.

Consider a recent report conducted by Censuswide, which revealed a staggering 94% of Australian workers experienced frustration with inadequate technology to support hybrid work as the nation was living with COVID-19. It’s no surprise those staff would make do with other tools at their disposal.

Similarly, at a recent event I attended, decision-makers from some of the country’s largest companies noted insufficiently resourcing their staff led to roadblocks that impacted their ability to serve customers, as well as their general quality of work life.

It even occurs in industries like healthcare, where practitioners turn to encrypted messaging apps – WhatsApp, Signal or otherwise – to share patient diagnoses, images of injuries and scans and other private information as it is the fastest way to do so, allowing them to commence treatment sooner.

While there is need for consistent education of workers on what their obligations are to remain compliant, there is as much – if not more – of a need for employers to equip employees with the right capabilities to fulfill their roles.

Providing the best customer experience – often regarded the make or break of a company – takes more than flashy apps to connect with consumers. It means facilitating digital tools to optimize collaboration, streamline processes and tasks and create a ‘safe space’ through which workers and customers can interact without the fear data and conversations will be exposed.

It also means extending the affordances of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to staff, so they are supported by pseudo digital sidekicks that conduct judgement-based work and monitor whether regulations are being met to reduce uncertainties and grey areas.

When staff have access to a streamlined communications platform, interactions and conversations are more efficient and there’s a minimized risk of data misuse.

Under the current hybrid work setup, digital environments can be complicated when a diverse array of applications connect to a workplace’s network – making it even harder for management to oversee the full perimeter to avoid any breaches of compliance obligations.

When all avenues for communicating with customers are consolidated within a secured and authorized environment, employees can not only do their jobs as intended, but bosses gain assurances of how information is handled and consumers gain confidence in their private data remaining safe.

As digital services continue to entrench themselves in our daily routines, Australians will continue reaping the benefits both personally and professionally. But leaders have an obligation to consider the inherent risks, both to ensure practices are compliant and keep employee and customer data safe. With the right tools to carry out their companies’ ambitions, Australia’s workforce can unlock the full potential of digital services, completing their jobs effectively and efficiently – in a way that’s unencumbered by productivity roadblocks and importantly, never threatens compliance.

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