Do IT Professionals Need HR Training?

When an employee is under investigation for alleged misconduct, IT professionals may be called upon to review their online activity or e-mails – even when the employee in question is the CEO. We were reminded of IT’s burgeoning role as corporate watchdogs, when it was revealed that HP chairman Mark Hurd had viewed YouTube videos of contractor Jodie Fisher, who later filed a sexual harassment complaint. Hurd’s Internet search history was considered by the HP board before he agreed to step down

Of course IT is obligated to fulfill investigation requests from HR or corporate legal staff, but what if a tech professional notices an employee’s frequent visits to questionable websites or spots an e-mail that violates company policy? Should he or she voluntarily divulge those findings?

These questions were appropriately raised by Mary Jander, in IT Lessons from Mark Hurd’s Exit, appearing on Internet Evolution. Jander points out that IT professionals may need HR training to handle oversight responsibilities.

The situation points to the growing trend of firms charging IT with monitoring employees’ Web behavior. But there’s more: As organizations engage in this kind of monitoring, and as they grow increasingly reliant on all kinds of personal information within business applications, IT is getting drawn into uncharted territory.

Then there’s the issue of what to do if an IT worker sees something that calls for response. No one wants to rat out a colleague. But if they’re selling secrets to the competition, creating a hostile work environment, or exposing the company to lawsuits, what then?

(David Silversmith, VP information technology at FirstBook.org) recommends that companies start training their IT pros in HR issues: "There are all these rules about how IT employees have to be trained on security – but there are few organizations that effectively train IT teams on HR. In the typical organization IT staff have extreme access to confidential info."

Do IT professionals need HR training? Do you know when to report suspicious employee behavior? Share your thoughts.

— Leslie Stevens-Huffman

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