People analytics: the ethical dilemma

1 minute read

Ethics is the most important part of people analytics, says IBM’s people analytics expert David Green. ThePeopleSpace pulls out some key lessons from him

HR has a big opportunity to help close the gap between individuals, business, public policy and technology as the latter outpaces legislation and desire. However, 81% of people analytics projects are jeopardised by ethics and privacy concerns and 84% of professionals think HR urgently needs guidance on the fair use and privacy of new and emerging data sources in workforce analytics, says IBM Watson Talent global director of people analytics solutions David Green.

Research by IBM on Ethical Dilemmas in HR Analytics surveying 20,000 workers in 44 countries found four distinct types of ethical outlook: absolutists, situationalists, subjectivists and exceptionalists.

The dominant ethical ideology is absolutism, strongest in 73% of countries. Second is situationalism, which dominated in just 18% of countries. These cultural preferences should be considered when setting an organisation’s ethical policies and guidelines. For global companies, this could prove problematic if offices are located in countries with different ethical ideologies about the use of people data.


Four elements to consider in relation to people analytics and ethics


    Partner with legal and IT
    Establish a governance council
    Publish a code of practice
    Get ready for GDPR
    Have an expert on your team
  2. BE OPEN
    Be clear on the why
    Allow employees to opt in or opt out
    Personalise and empower
    Promote transparency and trust
    Don’t be afraid to be brave
    Do pilots: test, validate, iterate
    Communicate success and create momentum
    Look outside your organisation
    Help employees understand their digital footprint
    Can is replaced by should
    Don’t forget the H in HR





David Green was talking at the UNLEASH18 conference and expo in London, UK on 21 March 2018
Enjoyed this story?
Sign up for our newsletter here.