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The New Rules of Talent Intelligence (1): From Terms & Conditions to Transparency & Clarity

Data Privacy
Data Ethics

The New Rules of Talent Intelligence (1): From Terms & Conditions to Transparency & Clarity

It would take 15 work weeks a year to read all of the Terms and Conditions an average internet user encounters. Fifteen weeks....

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It would take 15 work weeks a year to read all of the Terms and Conditions an average internet user encounters. Fifteen weeks. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon worked this out. They also worked out a hypothetical cost for all of that lost work in the US - $781 billion. Good job almost no one takes the time to read Ts&Cs then, isn’t it?

Well – no, not really.

In the context of today’s furor around data privacy and ethics, it’s more important than ever that we have intelligible, accessible legal documentation that explains the balance of power between the data processor and data subject. For Talent Intelligence – that’s employer and employee.

I recently attended a CHRO summit in London and was very surprised to hear one CHRO say that it was pointless embarking on Talent Intelligence efforts because GDPR rendered it impossible to collect employee data. Errrm? Well – no. Not quite. You can still collect employee data, but now you have to make it very clear to the employee what you’re collecting and why. So maybe what this CHRO meant to say was not that it was pointless, but that it was too much of an effort.

Organizations can’t get away with blinding employees with hyperbole and over-intellectualized terms and conditions. In times when trust is a necessity, organizations should only communicate data collection efforts in one way: transparently and clearly. The GDPR regulation stipulates that the data controller provide the data subject with information about his/her personal data processing in a ‘manner which is clearly distinguishable from other matters, in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language’ (Art. 7). Quite frankly, this should be foundational for global data collection efforts.

Organizations must find simple, straight-forward ways of communicating clearly and transparently. Some ideas:

  • Find the best way of communicating – it might not be a blanket email to “companyALL.” Try developing and then utilizing a network of workforce intelligence advocates to share information in a more colloquial way and provide an opportunity for genuine questions and feedback. Professional social network sites like Yammer are useful – but don’t underestimate the importance of having a human to talk to. Processes surrounding personal data don’t have to be impersonal.
  • Keep communication consistent, especially when it comes to voluntary participation. Ensure that all employees are aware of their right to opt-out at any time.
  • Work hard to make it easy for employees to see what data you hold on them. The UX of this space should be clean, easy-to-use and professional.
  • Review your Terms of Service! I’m not saying you have to go full comedian (see here for a giggle), but it’s worth the investment to make the whole thing a lot more readable for a new employee.

I’m not here (and neither is GDPR) to unnecessarily add to your to-do list. Public sentiment surrounding data ethics and privacy is growing with rampant fervor and trust is being lost on a daily basis as huge organizations are forced to admit that they messed up. (See Art. 33).

Funnily enough, these communications tend to be examples of really good, clear and transparent messages:

Sometimes, even GDPR communication itself can lead to a data breach. This company (who sells a privacy tool) sent a GDPR email that accidentally created a data breach. So much irony.

As the balance of power between employee and employer shifts in favor of the employee, it’s time to prioritize trust (that’s why we came up with the Chief Trust Officer in 21 Jobs of the Future). Start with the public’s biggest concern of 2018 and beyond – data privacy.


This blog is part of a series on Talent Intelligence and the Big Brother Burden.

In 2018 there was plenty of excitement surrounding the potential of People Analytics. We published our take in Talent Intelligence: Unlocking People Data to Redefine How Humans Need to Work. We believe that Talent Intelligence will be the secret to solving your biggest talent crises:

  • Finding and retaining top talent
  • Fostering productivity, performance and well-being; and diversity and inclusion
  • Driving agile, flexible attitudes toward human-to-human and human-to-machine collaboration that unlocks innovation

But before you can reap the rewards, there’s one big hurdle standing in your way: the Big Brother Burden. We break down the Big Brother Burden into four golden rules for the ethical collection of employee data. Organizations have to play by these rules if they want Talent Intelligence efforts to stick.

In this blog series I’ll take you through the four golden rules in a bit more detail…

  1. Introducing The New Rules
  2. The New Ts&Cs: From Terms & Conditions to Transparency & Clarity. Make the “give-to-get” ratio clear and compelling.
  3. Remember Who Owns the Data. Portability counts. Employees own their data and have a right to download it and take it with them.
  4. Who’s Watching? Individual worker data should rarely be used and only when there’s a real business case for it. Otherwise, aggregate data to ensure anonymity.
  5. Only Ever If They Opt-In. Taking part in data collection in the workplace must always be optional, not mandated.

Dive in to get your data ducks in a row. Only then can you make the most of Talent Intelligence tactics.

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