HR’s Growing Role in Data Privacy & Protection

HR’s Growing Role in Data Privacy & Protection

Insights and Advice from an Empyrean Expert

The role of our HR and benefits leaders continues to evolve and expand, and now our human resources teams are at the forefront of the battle to ensure both company and employee data remains protected and secure in our increasingly digitized world.

Gone are the days when only certain subgroups of an employee population relied on technology to perform their jobs. Today, nearly every American worker touches technology in some form on a daily basis, putting an increasing burden on HR teams to manage and train our evolving workforce on the best practices for ensuring data protection and security.

HR professionals are tasked with ensuring that employees follow IT and security policies and protocols to protect not only the company they work for and the customers they serve, but also themselves. Following the trend of supporting total employee health and wellness, more and more employers are offering identity theft protection as a voluntary benefit. However, an analysis of Empyrean’s enrollment data shows that only 13.8% of those employees offered the benefit enroll.

While we may tend to focus on highly-publicized and wide-spread security and data breaches impacting huge numbers of consumers, a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute found that just eight percent of all data breaches are caused by external cyber-attacks. Instead, the overwhelming majority of data breaches are caused by human error.

While experts recognize that it is a huge undertaking, they caution that HR professionals need to partner with IT to concentrate efforts on building a workplace culture where all employees are playing an active role in keeping data safe and secure, including instilling a sense of accountability across teams to ensure that data security needs are a priority.

In recognition of Data Privacy Day, we sat down with our Senior Security Analyst, Joel Tristani, to discuss the importance of data privacy and protection, including how we protect our own client data here at Empyrean.

Let’s start with the basics. Why is data privacy so crucial, and what should employees and organizations know about it?

Organizations are entrusted with handling personal data, and must take all necessary precautions to ensure it remains protected while in their care, including while it is being stored, processed, or is in transit to another authorized party.

There are many reasons why an employee might want to keep data about their identity, health, finances, or other matters private, and it is every person’s right to decide who has access to their personal data, and how it should and should not be used.

How can employers help employees safeguard data privacy?

There are a myriad of ways that employers can support safe and effective cyber hygiene. At Empyrean, we provide security awareness training to all of our employees, which includes important tips and tricks on how to look out for various red flags when using email, browsing websites, and operating computers and other devices.

We encourage all employers to ensure your employees are equipped with the proper tools, resources, and guides to help them handle their own data, and their clients’ data, in the safest, most secure way possible.

How does Empyrean protect our own client data?

At Empyrean, the protection of client data is a top priority.

Client data is always encrypted while at rest within our systems and during transfer in from a client or out to an authorized partner. In addition, before it’s transferred through an encrypted pathway, data is further encrypted at the file level to ensure that only the owner of that data can decrypt and access it, even after it reaches its final destination.

Access to client data while in our care is limited to only the client team members that require access in order to service the account. Beyond secure data handling practices, we maintain a robust security control environment and multi-layered defense strategy to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our own and our clients’ information assets.

What’s your best advice for everyday data privacy protection?

A quick tip for everyday data privacy protection is to enable multi-factor or two-factor authentication for bank, insurance, and other websites that store your personal data.

And please – I cannot stress this enough – do not re-use passwords! If one of your accounts is compromised, all of your accounts with the same email and password combination will also be at risk. Multi/two-factor authentication mitigates this to some extent, but your best bet is to create different, strong passwords that will help protect you against cyber threats. Establish your own multi-layered defense, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Whether you’re an employee trying to protect your own personal data, or an organization safeguarding client information, everyone has a responsibility to ensure sensitive data is sent, stored, used, and viewed safely and appropriately.

About Joel Tristani, Senior Security Analyst at Empyrean

Joel joined the Empyrean team in 2021, and plays a pivotal role as a member of the organization’s IT and security teams. His decades-long IT career includes time spent at corporations like Widespread Technologies and BCI, as well as time spent at municipalities and within the private consulting space.

Joel earned a B.S. from Hodges University, as well as a M.S. in Cybersecurity from DePaul University. He resides in Tucson, Arizona.

How Decision Support Technology Can Fuel a Better Employee Experience

How Decision Support Technology Can Fuel a Better Employee Experience

Read our Decision Support Guide to learn about the top 5 factors to consider when evaluating recommendation engine platforms. Understand how predictive analytics can help employees understand future risks and costs, and what to look out for when comparing platforms to ensure you get the best fit for your needs.

The Changing Role of the Strategic Benefits Leader

The Changing Role of the Strategic Benefits Leader

Since the start of the pandemic, company benefits have played an increasingly important role in helping organizations protect the safety, wellness, and health of their employees. This is increasingly the case, not only for physical wellness, but organizations now have greater awareness of mental health and financial wellness impacts on their staff given recent challenges and mass resignations.

2022: a perfect storm for benefits

The dominance of remote/hybrid work environments also opens up new opportunities for benefits functions to offer new benefit types that could be seen as tangible expressions of a company’s culture. Therefore, If employee welfare, attraction, and retention are not top of the list of your key strategic priorities for 2022, they should be. Not only are organizations and HR functions adapting to new ways of working and changing business environments, they are also facing the fact that employees have started to “vote with their feet”, demanding a better work-life balance. We are experiencing the largest wave of mass resignations seen in most of our lifetimes. This is also not helped by the retirement of baby boomers and an aging workforce. 2022 is the year to act, and these challenges also offer a great opportunity for benefits teams to relook at the role they can play in strengthening the resilience of companies and their workforce.

Katie McCabe Joins Growing Empyrean Sales Team as Strategic Director, Business Development for New York

Katie McCabe Joins Growing Empyrean Sales Team as Strategic Director, Business Development for New York

Houston, TX. [Jan. 19, 2022] Empyrean, (, a leading employee benefits administration service and technology provider, has announced the addition of Katie McCabe to their rapidly expanding sales team. In this newly created role, McCabe will focus on the continued development of Empyrean’s presence throughout New York State, working to build employer, broker, and carrier relationships focusing on groups from 1,500-5,000 benefits eligible.

“Katie is one of several key sales hires we have added to the Empyrean sales team over the last few quarters,” said Chris Rossi, Empyrean’s VP Sales for the eastern region. “She is a fantastic addition to our team, and is well respected in the NY/NJ marketplace for her leadership and collaboration with the clients and broker partners she has worked with throughout her career.”

An industry veteran, McCabe has with more than 17 years of diverse experience with organizations including Emerson Reid & Co. (a subsidiary of USI) and The Standard, and most recently served as a Premier Account Executive for Prudential.

“I’m excited to be joining such a dynamic team during this time of growth for Empyrean,” added McCabe. “After spending much of my career on the carrier side, I have witnessed firsthand how critical administrative platforms are for employers and how pitfalls can create significant challenges, derailing the execution of benefit strategies. In addition to the exceptional company culture, the capabilities Empyrean brings to the marketplace are not only impressive, but also focus on the future of work to give clients and their employees much needed peace of mind.”

The addition of McCabe comes during a year of great headcount and client growth for Empyrean, including a concentrated expansion in the northeastern U.S. Much of this growth has been fueled by new technology enhancements and rollouts, including COVID-19 vaccination tracking capabilities, enhanced ACA reporting functionality, and Pilot+, Empyrean’s claims-based decision support and personalized healthcare navigation product.

In late 2021, Empyrean also launched its new website, reflecting the organization’s mission to help employers create positive workplace cultures through benefits.

McCabe earned a B.A. from the State University of New York College at Oswego, and resides in New York City.

About Empyrean

Since 2006, Empyrean has provided employers of varying size, industry, and benefit plan complexity with the innovative technology and best in class service necessary to accelerate their benefits strategies and bring their benefit programs to life. Empyrean’s platform and services were designed to create connected employee benefit experiences that enrich lives, strengthen employer brands, and improve workplace cultures.

Today, more than 3.6 million participants across the U.S. rely on Empyrean’s cutting-edge systems and best in class support teams to inform and guide their benefit enrollment and utilization decisions. Focused on total employee health and wellness, Empyrean is dedicated to delivering a scalable and tailored benefits experience for all employees and their families by combining innovative technology with employee-centric services to empower participants to better understand, access, and engage with their benefit programs not just at enrollment time, but on a year-round basis.

Empyrean’s platforms and services empower employees to not only better understand the value of the benefit programs offered to them, but to then connect with these benefits in a way that drives better outcomes from themselves, their families, and their organization.

Headquartered in Houston, TX, Empyrean has additional office locations in Minneapolis, MN and Nashville, TN, as well as remote teams located throughout the U.S.

Empyrean is a subsidy of Securian Financial (

Brienne Driscoll
Head of Content & Communications