· 2 min read · News

Employees don't trust organisations enough to share personal data

Published:

Workers are willing to share personal data to improve diversity and inclusion (D&I) but do not trust their employer enough to do this.

New research conducted by Economist Impact and commissioned by Zellis found of 1000 UK and Ireland employees surveyed, 68% of respondents said they were likely or very likely to take part in data collecting, with those from a minority group even more likely at 75%.

This enthusiasm was increased in organisations where there were noticeable leadership efforts to improve diversity and inclusivity.

Firms which have a poor track record on D&I suffered from what the report authors called a ‘chicken and egg’ paradox, where a lack of trust in commitment to diversity and inclusion means data is lacking in creating more inclusive programmes.

John Petter, CEO of Zellis, warned that good intentions were no longer enough for HR when improving diversity in an organisation. 

He said: “D&I needs the same rigour that any major business initiative would have - and understanding the data is absolutely key.

“To build the trust required to get high levels of declaration, organisations need to be clear that this is part of a cross company transformation that is about fairness for everyone.”

"They also need to be really thoughtful about how the data is actually collected and any communications associated with this. As always, good communication is as much about listening as it is about being heard.

"HR teams need to be reaching out to networks and support groups, making use of surveys and feedback forums, as well as running both open and anonymous focus groups."

Only 42% of employees that believe their organisations have made no progress on DEI initiatives were 'likely' or 'very likely' to participate in data sharing, more than 20% less than among those at firms where some progress has been recognised.

The research found employees differed on how comfortable they were with disclosure.

Only a third of racial and ethnic minorities and employees with a cognitive, mental or physical disability said they were ‘very likely’ to join in efforts to collect data, compared to 44% who identify as LGBT+.

People who identify as a member of no minority group were the least likely of any group to share data.

Concerns over what organisations will do with the data were the main reason why employees were unwilling to share their personal information.

Over a quarter of employees were worried about the anonymity of the data collected and how the data will be stored and protected, which the report authors argued demonstrated how critical trust was.

Petter added: “HR also need to be really thoughtful about how the data is actually collected and any communications associated with this.

“As always, good communication is as much about listening as it is about being heard. In order to produce genuine change, HR teams need to be reaching out to networks and support groups, making use of surveys and feedback forums, as well as running both open and anonymous focus groups.”

The report recommended seven strategies for HR to improve trust in organisation data collection:

  • Provide clear explanations of how data will be used
  • Update policies and processes to foster an inclusive workplace
  • Frame data collection as part of a company-wide transformation
  • Focus on reaching those whose disclosure rates would otherwise be lower
  • Ask for a wide range of data and make sure to ask the “right” questions
  • Focus on the specificity of identity
  • Make it easy for employees to update data at all points of their careers