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Successful People Analytics – Ensure Employee Buy-In by Taking Data Privacy Preferences Seriously

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“When your company does not trust you, why should you trust your company?”

A responsible approach to using employee data for People Analytics initiatives should go beyond legalities. Acting according to existing laws is the minimum requirement, but implementing a successful People Analytics project also depends on the buy-in of your employees and that means taking data privacy preferences seriously.

IBM has conducted a small, qualitative study with young professionals in Germany. We asked them for their views on People Analytics, and where they see the data-related risks and opportunities for themselves and their companies. Here are the key recommendations emerging from our study insights:

State the benefits (1) – what’s in it for the individual?
Young professionals early in their career have a strong focus on career progression. They appreciate receiving help and guidance and many see a clear potential benefit of People Analytics in career coaching. Career coaching can help employees find the best fit based on their talents and, as a result improve their performance at work. When Analytics is used to identify skills gaps and personalized training, or to make work more efficient, then young professionals are very willing to share their personal data. Make sure your employees are aware of these benefits.

State the benefits (2) – what’s in it for the company?
In recent years, the younger generation, in particular Generation Y, has often been stigmatized as selfish, lazy or too demanding. In contrast to this negative branding, we found that young professionals we interviewed know very well that they work for the benefit of the company. They appreciate the necessity of People Analytics initiatives that aim to improve their company’s overall performance. They want to see where they fit in the bigger picture, and they appreciate open communication.

“I know my rights!”, said no employee ever.
The laws on data protection are complicated, and young professionals are aware of this complexity. They know that there are rules for the company with regards to collecting and processing their data, but, like general terms and conditions in online shopping, a pragmatic approach is used: I have to accept them anyway, so why should I read all of it. However, this does not mean that young professionals want to be kept in the dark. Rather the young professionals we interviewed would prefer to have this information provided in a more digestible way. Explanations about the usage of data that’s collected from employees for a People Analytics project should be communicated in as simple a way as possible. Too much information that lacks specificity should be avoided, but employees should be informed about new laws and changes that impact their work life, for example via a simple newsletter.

Transparency is key! Employees trust people, not algorithms.
If you’re using insights from analytics to inform decisions (and we would argue, you should), make sure you openly communicate this to your employees. At the same time, state clearly that decisions are ultimately made by humans, who are using People Analytics systems in a responsible way. Employees value transparency around decisions taken and how People Analytics is used as a basis for these decisions. Under no circumstances should employees perceive People Analytics as a tracking initiative. The way to avoid such a perception is with consistent and transparent communication.

Employees accept that algorithms are a part of their daily life, be it at home or at work, with the right appreciation for their preferences, ethical approaches and transparent communication, organizations can ensure the success of their People Analytics projects.

Discover how IBM Watson Talent Insights could help you use your employee data to generate business-critical insights.

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