Companies are collecting an increasing amount of data on their employees, but that does not mean they are confident in their ability to mine the data responsibly. That's the disconcerting result from a survey conducted by Accenture and released at this week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
More than two-thirds (70%) of business leaders globally said they are "not very confident" that they are using new sources of workplace data in a "highly responsible" way. But that is not going to stop them.
Just about half of the C-suite executives (49%) say they will use the workplace data as they see fit, with no additional responsibility measures; only 31 percent say employee concerns are holding them back, according to the Accenture survey.
"There is a lot of risk for companies and employees, and for society," said Ellyn Shook, Accenture's chief leadership and human resources officer. "If you are not very confident, you are in trouble," Shook said. She said that companies that proceed without well-constructed policies on use of employee data — what she calls "workforce DNA" — and without the input of employee groups will lose trust and revenue potential rather than gain business opportunities. It is an opportunity that Accenture estimates at more than $6 trillion globally — $3 trillion in the United States alone. "There are massive, untapped sources of workforce data," she said.
Privacy experts worry that the results from the Accenture survey indicate that businesses do not act with prudence.
"Our concern continues to be that the speed with which new technologies are being introduced in the workplace is blurring the boundaries between employees and employers," said Joseph Jerome, policy counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. "It's good to see so many business leaders are aware of — and concerned about — this situation, but the report pretty clearly suggests that enterprise needs to drive business efficiencies through the collection and exploitation of data will win out over generalized ethical concerns."