Privacy in People Analytics

July 28th, 2020

People data is already an integral feature of much of our modern work in HR, and its role will only continue to expand as our desire and need to depend on it grows. That’s why we created the People Analytics Program in the Josh Bersin Academy—the next session starts July 29.

Even as our data tools and capabilities become more powerful, we cannot forget the importance of leveling up our data ethics and security practices. These considerations should be baked into any people analytics practice—from procurement through final implementation and continuous review—not as an afterthought or secondary concern. The Resource below—a sample from our library—summarizes Josh Bersin’s recent research, offering a robust overview of data ethics, privacy, and security in people analytics.

Josh lays out four key areas underlying the ethical use and governance of people data that can be used as a framework for understanding our key challenges.

  • Privacy: Employees expect that access to all the data they provide—including data collected from their devices as they work and communicate—will be limited to as few people as absolutely necessary.
  • Security: Employees expect that their personal data will be protected at least as well as other crucial business data.
  • Mitigating Bias: Monitoring our people analytics practices for biased outcomes requires continuous vigilance; we can’t rely on AI to police itself. Combating bias is also essential to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) compliance.
  • People Impact: Start with the fundamental question: is your use of employee data making their lives better or easier in some way? Beyond that, trust cannot exist without transparency. Employees should know what data is being collected, how it’s being used, and to what ends.

Josh also outlines the organizational capabilities needed to enable the ethical use and practice of people analytics. What do we need to have in place?

  • People-first mindset: Keeping people—and what’s good for them—at the center of our data practices requires a mindset that doesn’t focus too narrowly on process efficiency or cost savings at the expense of our people. Josh offers several guiding questions to get us thinking: is a data-related project going to make life better for employees? Is it going to make work a better place to show up to every day? Would you submit to these practices yourself? Are practices fair and distributed equally among employees who need to be involved?

  • A True Partnership With IT: The logistics of deploying new data tools and technologies relies on close alignment between HR and IT. But we also have the opportunity to develop a true partnership with IT. We can use the relationship to ensure that IT policies are in line with HR policies in a way that maximizes privacy, security, and the positive impact our technology has on our people. This starts with open communication across functional teams and silos.

  • Communicating widely and often: Transparent communication is the basis of trust. By creating an open dialogue about how we are using people data and why, we can also empower employees to keep us accountable and provide valuable feedback. This in turn can help us fine-tune and improve our people analytics practices.

  • New specialist roles: Data literacy has quickly become a nearly indispensable skill for all HR practitioners to have, but there is already more than enough complexity and scope for full-time HR data specialists. GDPR, for example, requires the creation of a data privacy officer role, but other new titles might include ethics and compliance managers, privacy analysts, and compliance specialists. In addition, some organizations are hiring full-time staff dedicated to data collection and management, data analysis, data quality, and data privacy.

To learn more about People Analytics and to access all 300+ Resources, join the Josh Bersin Academy today. Don’t forget to sign up for the People Analytics Program by July 29.