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HR has become our moral compass for data protection

An ethical approach to data starts with employees. If people don’t manage information responsibly, how can we hope to track it, much less protect it? Education is the key to driving awareness, which is why HR must take the helm in driving this behavioural change across the business.

Who would have thought flash drives would become our worst enemy? The convenience of USB sticks and mobile phones has made us more productive, but it has also created a logistical nightmare for businesses that need to track and manage all the data flowing around their organisation. Employees may take data management and security more seriously today, but these risky practices are still prevalent.

Consider how companies manage performance reviews. Not long ago, or even still today, data from discussions with employees would be entered in a spreadsheet and shared across the business, with minimal record of who, what, or why it changed hands over time. This approach is or should be no longer acceptable, not just logistically but also from an ethical perspective – employees demand and deserve greater transparency into how their data is being used.

Which brings us to the value of training and HR’s crucial role in driving a more conscientious approach to data management. Today, just 35% of HR decision-makers feel fully confident in their organisation’s ability to manage data securely, which is why companies like NatWest have launched data academies to train their employees on the value and power of data they work with each day.

Extending this to the wider business, awareness and best-practice are the biggest culprits in the push to handle data ethically:

  • 29% of respondents cited employees’ managing data through mobile devices or social platforms
  • 28% cited a low attention to data confidentiality, and
  • 24% cited outright blindness on how data is supposed be used

Reading between the lines, this means companies need better training for their employees on the importance and implications of how they manage data. In essence, HR must act as the moral compass that brings about this change, helping to ensure employees across the business put ethics first when working with data. With the right processes in-place, there’s no reason that ethics and convenience can’t coexist.

Encouragingly, 34% of HR leaders have made it a priority to raise awareness around data security threats, and 40% have a data management strategy place. These are major steps forward for a department that in many organisations is still transitioning to a data-driven way of working.

There is more work to be done, but with HR serving as a strong moral compass every team in the business will move towards a more considered approach to data management. This greater focus on ethics won’t just help to secure sensitive information. It will also help HR to build a strong employer brand, which will in turn help them attract more data-conscious talent, improve productivity, and foster a more diverse working environment.  

Discover how HR departments are contributing to their organisation’s data security in our report

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