Don’t get caught in the Web trap

The Web can bring flexibility to the office, opening up new possibilities.
But beware of its dangerous side

The power of the Internet can no longer be ignored in the workplace – it has
revolutionised the way companies do business and consequently the way employees
do their job.

The Web gives employers more choice, for example the possibility of Internet
recruitment, employee cybertraining and the opportunity to establish a more
flexible workforce.

But it also lacks controls, and employers are having to address issues of
Internet misuse/abuse, employee cybersabotage and the security of company
confidential information.

HR professionals in particular need to be alert to the benefits and pitfalls
of an on-line workplace. Do you use the Internet as a recruitment tool? The
Internet has proved an effective tool in attracting quality candidates from a
wider geographical pool. It also allows the employer to vet applications more
efficiently and even conduct virtual interviews.

In addition, Internet recruitment can reduce the possibility of employer
bias and discrimination as a company is less likely to make judgements based on
an employee’s race or disability.

What about cybertraining? As employees become less office based and begin to
work remotely from different locations, some companies have introduced classes
over the Internet to provide training and education to their staff. This can be
less time-consuming and disruptive to the workplace than more traditional
training methods. It may also be cheaper than paying employees’ accommodation
and travel expenses.

Training over the Internet has the advantage that HR can easily monitor who
has attended the course and training programmes can easily be updated and
rerun.

But for every silver lining there must also be a cloud. HR departments need
to be aware of the risks that result from employees having access to a global
network. Monitoring and controls should be put in place to prevent employee
abuse and limit the company’s exposure to liability.

In the US, it has become apparent that disaffected employees are using the
Net to spread damaging rumours about their ex-employers. This results in costly
bad publicity to the company, and so to protect themselves, some companies are
now establishing "cyberpatrols" to police what is said about them
over the Web.

In the UK, there have already been instances of employees claiming to suffer
Internet addiction and attempting to sue their employers.

In short, employers need to be thinking about, and planning how to make the
Web work for them.

These and other issues will be the focus for discussion among HR
professionals at Eversheds Employers’ Convention which is being held on 12-13
April at Oulton Hall in Leeds.

By Martin Hopkins senior partner at Eversheds

• For more information contact Laura Morris on 0121-232 1000 or visit the
Eversheds web site at www.employersconvention.com

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