9th June 2020
For millions of people around the UK – and the world – the shift to home working has come with a unique set of challenges. Whilst there are undoubtedly some benefits involved – no one misses the packed tube on a Monday morning – it has taken a period of adjustment for businesses and employees alike.
We spoke to Oz Alashe MBE, CEO and co-founder of CybSafe on how the pandemic and move to home working has reminded him of some key lessons on leadership, communication and the value of people.
“We are a cybersecurity and data analytics company, but our main focus is always the human element. At CybSafe we help organisations manage the human factor of cyber risk, looking at how people behave, how they care, how they engage at work – so yes, we are a technology company, but we are really all about people.”
Oz’s team were way ahead of the game when it came to remote working, having been testing business continuity strategy for a few years. “We have trialled out home working capacity a few times – when protests or strikes made going to Canary Wharf on public transport impossible, or when a sweltering heatwave made the tubes unbearable. When we saw other nations going into lockdown, we implemented a two week tester period to see how we cope. Lo and behold, the day before we were set to return, the UK lockdown took hold.”
Steering a team and business through a period of extreme disruptions is a huge responsibility and this pandemic has created a unique set of issues – but Oz has unrivalled experience in managing a team in a crisis, having served as an Army Officer for 17 years.
“This period has reminded me – and reinforced – key leadership lessons I learnt during my time in the army. The environment and challenges are very different, but the core strategies can be applied. Firstly, is the focus you must give to communication. Aggressive, deliberate – almost excessive – communication. You need to keep people together and must go above and beyond to ensure things do not get lost, and communication does not break down.
The other lesson I have prioritised is trust. You would be surprised about how many businesses underestimate this quality. Leaders might superficially say they trust their employees, but they still wonder if employees are shirking responsibility or are not being transparent in their work, creating an unpleasant and stifled professional environment. I always believed that if you bring the right people together, give them the right context, the right tools and the right motivation, you empower then with trust and will be repaid with loyalty. Throughout this period, absolute trust in our employees has been the most beneficial thing for us as a company.”
The move to home working has had another transformative effect on businesses – and that is the rapid need to digitalise. “I think it is fair to say that some companies have digitalised more in the last three months than they had plans to do in the next few years. This increased reliance on technical solutions means that cyber risk is now an even higher priority, and for CybSafe, we have seen an increased interest in our unique approach. With people working from home, you cannot simply overload employees with information on security – most people do not remember or absorb the information well enough to change their behaviour. You need more effective interventions to make your employees feel educated, confidence and in control.”
This week would have been London Tech Week – one of the biggest opportunities for collaboration and debates around technology in London – and discussions around cybersecurity would have been centre stage. Appreciating the vital need for these conversations to still take place, CybSafe decided to stick to their plans and will be kicking off their event, PeepSec, today. Running until Wednesday, the virtual conference will bring together leading experts from around the world to understand how the relationship between people and technology is changing – a topic that has never been more relevant and pressing than it is today.