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More Responsible Use of Workforce Data Required to Strengthen Employee Trust and Unlock Growth

DAVOS, Switzerland –Business leaders will need to implement responsible workforce data strategies if they are to build the employee trust that will help generate sustained revenue growth, according to a new report from Accenture (NYSE:?ACN).

The Accenture Strategy report, “Decoding Organizational DNA,” is based on qualitative and quantitative research, including global surveys of 1,400 C-level executives and 10,000 workers across 13 industries.

Among the key findings for the UK: While more than six in 10 C-level executives (62 percent) said that their organizations are using new technologies to collect data on their people and their work to gain more actionable insights—from the quality of work and the way people collaborate to their safety and well-being—fewer than one-third (29 percent) are very confident that they are using the data responsibly.

In addition, half (50 percent) of workers think that the use of new sources of workforce data risks damaging trust, and 61 percent said that recent scandals over the misuse of data makes them concerned that their employee data might be at risk too. The good news is that 89 percent of workers are open to the collection of data on them and their work, but only if it improves their performance or well-being or provides other personal benefits. More than five in 10 workers (57 percent) would exchange their work-related data for more-customized compensation, rewards and benefits, and 53 percent would do so for more customized learning and development opportunities.

The report shows that, globally, US$3.1 trillion of future revenue growth is at stake for large companies, depending on how their workforce data strategies affect employee trust. Companies that put in place responsible data strategies could see revenue growth up to 12.5 percent higher than that of companies that fail to adopt responsible data strategies.

“At a time when companies are using newly available workforce data to drive greater value, responsible leadership is the key to building employee trust,” said Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s chief leadership and human resources officer. “Trust is the ultimate currency — it’s the path to innovation and fuels growth by unlocking people’s potential.”

The response of business leaders to the workforce data challenge varies widely. One-third (33 percent) of the surveyed executives said they are holding back from investing as much as they would like in workforce data-gathering technologies due to employee sensitivities, while approximately the same number (35 percent) are investing anyway and figuring out how to do it responsibly as issues arise.

“Business faces the same digital trust challenge for employees as it does for consumers. Using workforce data can unlock value for businesses and their employees, but needs to be approached responsibly, for mutual gain and with the goal of building trust,” says Andy Young, who leads Accenture Talent & Organization practice in the UK and Ireland. “Yet our research shows many executives and HR teams are unclear on how to handle workforce data and only just starting to get to grips with how to establish digital trust. To build digital trust with workers, there are proactive steps leaders can take. For instance, by sharing accountability for workforce data and giving employees greater control and visibility. Our research shows employees are open to their data being gathered and used when the purpose is clear and mutually beneficial.”

A Framework for Responsible Use of Workforce Data
To help ensure that employees’ concerns are met, Accenture recommends the following framework for the responsible use of workforce data:

Give Control. Gain Trust. By giving employees far more control over their own data, organizations will not only gain their employees’ trust but also benefit from a greater flow of workforce insights with which they can improve performance. 70% of employees surveyed want to own their work-related data and take it with them when they leave their jobs — and nearly half (48 percent) of C-level executives are open to allowing them to do so.

Share Responsibility. Share Benefits. To create benefits for all, leaders must share responsibility across the C-suite and involve employees in the design of workforce data systems. Today, just over one-third (35 percent) of businesses co-create data system designs with employees, although one-third (31 percent) plan to do so.

Elevate People. Use Tech Responsibly. Companies need to use artificial intelligence and other technologies to provide employees with more growth opportunities and improve fairness and diversity. 77% said that having reliable data gathered by new technologies will improve fairness in pay, promotions and appraisal decisions.

“Trust has evolved from a “soft” corporate issue to a quantifiable metric with bottom line impact on revenue, EBITDA and, ultimately, growth through competitive agility,” said Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive, Accenture Strategy. “Today’s leaders must put employee and consumer trust at the heart of their business strategies with a clear actionable plan to get it and keep it.”