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Why responsible use of workforce data is essential for business growth

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.

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

Key findings: 

While more than half of C-level executives (55%) said that their organisations 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 — one quarter (25%) are very confident that they are using the data responsibly.

In addition, more than half (54%) of workers think that the use of new sources of workforce data risks damaging trust, and 67% said that recent scandals over the misuse of data make them concerned that their employee data might be at risk too. 

The good news is that 86% 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 half of Australian workers (55%) would exchange their work-related data for more-customized compensation, rewards and benefits, and 58% of Australian workers would do so for more customised 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% higher than that of companies that fail to adopt responsible data strategies.

“At a time when companies in Australia are increasingly using available workforce data to drive greater value, responsible leadership is the key to building employee trust,” said Accenture Australia chairman  Bob Easton. “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. Nearly one-third (29%) of the surveyed Australian 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 (32%) are investing anyway and figuring out how to do it responsibly as issues arise.

“It is clear that Australians are seeking greater control and transparency over the use of their personal data, evident through the upcoming Consumer Data Right and upcoming banking regulations,” said Easton. 

“This also extends into the workplace, however, and it is imperative that executives take a responsible approach to workplace data while achieving new business value, developing stronger digital trust.” 

To help ensure that employees’ concerns are met, Accenture recommends the following framework for the responsible use of workforce data:

1. Give Control. Gain Trust. By giving employees far more control over their own data, organisations will not only gain their employees’ trust but also benefit from a greater flow of workforce insights with which they can improve performance. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of employees surveyed want to own their work-related data and take it with them when they leave their jobs — and more than half (55%) of C-level executives are open to allowing them to do so.

2. 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, fewer than one quarter (24%) of businesses co-create data system designs with employees, although more than one third (39%) plan to do so. 

3. 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. Three in four Australian employees (75%) said that having reliable data gathered by new technologies will improve fairness in pay, promotions and appraisal decisions.