Privacy. Data. Concern.

personalizationIn a presentation at the IBM HR Summit last fall, I expected the discussion around talent analytics to go in a few directions, but fear wasn’t one of them. Not long after diving into the conversation, some of the audience members began asking questions about how to handle employee concerns about sticky issues like data privacy. In the moment, the only thing I could think of was how much companies know about me.

  • My favorite ecommerce site knows everything I search for, including what I do or do not purchase.
  • My video streaming service knows everything that I and my family consume, including an amazing ability to predict what we will enjoy watching next.
  • My preferred grocery store can track all of my purchases for the last 5+ years because I use my store card to get discounts and other preferential treatment.

When we stop and think about it, employers already collect an incredible amount of information about employees. Plus, with the implementation of wearables and other devices that allow us to collect exponentially more information on our workers, the amount of data on hand for any one person is staggering. And just like these retailers and other organizations, employers have the ability (and responsibility) to use that information for good, not evil.

It’s About Perceived Employee Value

So when it came time to respond to the question, I approached it from that same perspective. Just because we are worried about employee concerns doesn’t mean we should not build a talent analytics function, collect data about them, and use it when necessary. Instead, we should go out of our way to find ways to show just how helpful it can be for creating a powerful, valuable employee experience.

  1. For instance, if we can help show information on preferences and relevant career paths via our internal talent mobility program, employees will see value.
  2. If we can show not only a stock set of training options, but a tailored group of courses and learning experiences based on a person’s job, career aspirations, or skills gaps, employees will see the value.
  3. If we can give people benefit choices based on their prior usage, current family situation, and future preferences, employees will see the value.

However, if our only response to employee concerns is to push back, challenge them, or take the stance that it’s somehow our right as employers to gather and leverage the information in our talent processes, we will continue to struggle with converting them into believers. Instead of brushing them aside, we need to find out what the specific concerns are, because there’s a high likelihood that they are rooted not in the use of data, but in a specific relationship with a representative of the company. If someone’s direct manager is untrustworthy, the employee is more likely to distrust the company’s approach to gathering and analyzing employee data.

Having a “people first” approach to analytics is key, according to David Green, Global Director of People Analytics Solutions at IBM.

“Employee trust should be placed at the front, back and centre by companies when it comes to utilising people data. Indeed, used effectively, data can empower employees by providing them with the insights to help them manage their careers and be more productive. Companies can also harness employee sentiment and feedback – just as it does with customers – to improve the employee experience and drive increased loyalty and ultimately business performance. Companies still need to be transparent about privacy – from both a legal and moral standpoint – but by adopting an employee first strategy, concerns from employees will be mitigated.”

There have been, and there will continue to be, companies that misuse the information they gather to make unethical or illegal choices about their workers. The laws are in place to protect workers from those kinds of firms. But the vast majority of employers want to do good work and support their people. For those employers, the right answer is to seek ways to explore and expand upon the value your HR and talent processes bring to your organization and the workforce. By helping them see value personally, you can deliver a more engaging employee experience.

Interested in talent and workforce analytics? Get our free 2017 Workforce Analytics and Strategy report.