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In today’s rapid technological evolution, information from particular sources can be easily accessed, copied and shared out to a larger audience. If an organization fails to complete its basic role of being a guardian of the confidential business information within the company, it could convey unfavorable effects for business’ stability and sustainability in the long run.

The professionals from the Human Resources (HR) department are responsible for ensuring that every single employee acts in accordance with all of the security policies that are designed to protect the organization itself, the clients and the workforce included in the company’s functional processes. Besides the role of making employees aware of and responsive to company policies and procedures, HR representatives are also obliged to work side by side with the management to inspect and deal with any cases involving violations of this established regulative.

HR departments often work with information that, if leaked, could jeopardize or harm an employee or the entire company, which could cause repercussions that would affect and question the entire work of the department and the organization itself.

The violation of crucial material could be the beginning of any company’s downfall. Taking into consideration the significance of certain confidential materials, some information is supposed to be scattered inside the company’s surroundings, and only specifically entitled employees should be allowed to have access to sensitive information with reference to the employees and management. If these confidentiality and security measures are disregarded, there is a huge risk of the most valuable data being lost or even maliciously intercepted by somebody, which would bring the CISO’s job on the line. Even worse, there might be opening up of the organization toward some legal action.

Whether it uses paper files or electronic employee records, HR has a duty to shield and protect them from harm because confidentiality is crucial to the integrity of the department and the company’s reputation.

All of the entrusted private information about the organization, its employees and its potential employees can be found in a few critical working areas where constant check-ups should be implemented.

The recruitment process is the confidentiality’s first breaking point

The role of an HR expert in maintaining company’s confidentiality policies originates with the staff recruitment process. Legally, an organization can conduct background checks on prospective employment candidates as long as it has those individuals’ approval for personal data processing. Pre-employment personnel checks usually include research of the candidate’s criminal past and credit information. Companies that offer financial services like banks, savings houses, and other organizations that operate with cash and sensitive records often eliminate people with low credit or histories of previous convictions from the preselecting recruitment pool after revising background checks.

The written protection providers: Code Of Conduct and Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

In every working industry worldwide, most of the companies have information that must not be reached by their competitors or outsiders at any price, such as financial specifics or creative and inventive content. The profit loss is inevitable if the employees informally share exclusive or trademarked information with the competitors.

Furthermore, any organization could face law or court cases if employees are unsuccessful in protecting the client’s financial data. To avoid such problems, every company should implement a code of conduct or non-disclosure agreements for its employees or for its temporary contractors. These HR documents should consist of transparent instructions for preservation of sensitive information. A copy of the Code of Conduct policy should be provided to every employee, and signing of an agreement to its acceptation should be required by every new hire. The non-disclosure agreement (or NDA) acts as a legally-obligatory contract concerning the signing parties to not reveal the information defined within.

This confidential agreement safeguards the company since the signing parties would be matter of legal consequences if either of the parties violates the agreement. An NDA should pinpoint the parties involved and define the confidential data as closely or as largely as it is needed. It should also include the timeline during which the confidentiality refers to. (Sometimes the confidentiality period may last for months or years after an employee leaves the company, preventing him or her from confidential data sharing with competitors.)

A protected information technology system is essential for proper work

Most organizations nowadays are deeply dependent on computer software and innumerable sorts of remote working devices. The best and most important practices common for the successful HR professionals when it comes to cyber data protection is being proactive instead of being reactive. Their main assignment is to work very closely with information technology employees to make sure that employee records are encrypted and that proper safekeeping appliances have been implemented. The HR software must be security-proofed, and its supplier’s confidentiality standards should be unquestionably verified. HR policies can command the way in which the employees can remotely gain access to the work systems from home or from other places.

HR professionals must interact with the IT department and the rest of the company’s workforce to ensure they understand the procedures for accessing information, and the instructions for getting in contact with such information. Multi-level password structure should be included in the HR system for the purpose of customizing the company’s own security levels and for the sake of higher control of the overall access to confidential data.

Violations may still occur despite the precautionary measures

Even if the organization properly operates with codes of conduct, NDA agreements and encryption maneuvers, there will always be some unprincipled people who will find a way to outwit systems and to break the company’s rulebooks. In that case, the company’s authorities must inspect all of the security harms and its initiators and also suitable disciplinary actions must be taken. If violations are being passed over, then other employees might start to ignore the procedures, and additionally, it would leave the company open to discrimination complaints if it fails to consistently carry out the company policies.

If extremely unwanted scenarios tend to happen that involve significant data stealing or fraud conducted by any employee or temporary collaborator, the Human Resources department must immediately contact law prosecution representatives and press charges against the fraudsters. For that reason, the role of HR in applying a confidentiality policy must be conducted in advance when an employee joins the company, and it might be still lasting many months or years after a specific employee has left the organization.

Final confidentiality check – execute a risk calculation

The final step for assuring data confidentiality is to complete a risk assessment. If an organization knows exactly where its weaknesses are and which belongings or data are most prized to it, the risk forecast is a crucial step towards increasing cyber security. The estimation’s results can witness the current levels of security, and then it can help in modifying the existing training programs to make certain that the right trainings are delivered to the right people because not every employee needs the same cyber education.

The starring role of HR in the preservation of sensitive data for both the company and its employees is of supreme significance. The Human Resources department’s best stake is to conduct every possible proactive action to guarantee safe and harmless working processes and if a harm occurs to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

A perfect person is an abstract subject, which means that mistakes will always find a way to take place within the company’s work, but setting up procedures and practices that decrease their rate of recurrence and their magnitude is the best way to stay prepared and armed for such set-up. The precaution of today will most certainly serve for the future security too, as the threat of data cracks and other security concerns endure their global growth.


John Crowley

About the Author: John Crowley writes about HR, people management, and cloud technology. He manages the People HR blog, where he tackles topics ranging from building a strong culture to navigating the treacherous waters of HR tech.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.