Redesigning HR technology systems

What are you doing with my HR data? 

With increased concerns about privacy, security and HR data, a significant redesign of HR technology systems is on the horizon, writes Rob Scott

Four years ago, I wrote an article for Inside HR entitled The future of HR data ownership which looked at how the expansion of the internet, social and other storage platforms, wearables and the internet of things was allowing us to generate significant volumes of valuable personal data, of which we had very little control, including workplace data and IP.

And while most of us are still lax in controlling our personal IP and freely hand it over at the click of an Accept terms and conditions button, there is an important undercurrent of change happening, which is bringing data ownership back to its rightful owner – you.

Globally we are witnessing Federal Governments intervening on behalf of their citizens to ensure a greater balance of power against multinationals and even local government agencies who use our personal data for self-gain, and in some cases provide it to others without consent. A case in point in the UK where a Health trust handed over data for millions of patients to DeepMind, the artificial intelligence arm of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Incidents like this have seen legislative responses such as the General Data Protection Regulation from the EU which is geared to ensure greater transparency of what personal data is held by organisations and what they do with it.

Government intervention and customer retaliation is beginning to influence some business leaders to rethink data ownership”

Closer to home, Japans Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is trialing personal data stores where individuals get control over their own data as opposed to the current digital infrastructure with huge data monopolies controlling most personal data. In Australia, the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme, which is part of the Privacy Act, now obligates entities to notify authorities of a data breach involving individual personal data.

Government intervention and customer retaliation are beginning to influence some business leaders to rethink data ownership. An example is Telefonica, one of the worlds largest telecommunications companies headquartered in Spain. Their CEO, José María Álvarez-Pallete suggested clients should have control of their own data, and more so it should be portable.

Start-ups such as Digi.memyPlanit and Citizenme, seeing the obvious market gap emerging, are developing platforms which put you in control of gathering, storing, updating, correcting, analysing and most importantly, sharing personal data. There is no reason think this will not extend to work and employment-related and HR data.

Implications for HR

From an HR and HR technology perspective, this shift towards self-control and management of personal data will ultimately have an impact on how organisations gather and use information for the duration of an employment relationship, and for post-employment historic reporting obligations. Employees, contractors, casual and gig workers will demand the same civil rights of transparency and the ability to control what data is seen and how it is used.

Sharing employee and HR data with your SaaS HR tech vendor for example, which uses the data to create industry benchmarks or other revenue generating outcomes may require employee consent in the future, or a demand for compensation to use the data.  In short, HR will not have carte blanche over HR data. I would go so far as to suggest that in the future organisations will be obligated to provide portability of data created during the employee life-cycle.

“HR will not have carte blanche over employee related data

Over the next five years, I foresee significant redesign of HR technology systems taking place. The current fundamental system and database design are structured around organisational control of data. Future systems will need to embrace the ability to ‘connect’ via API to any number of personal data stores used by applicants, employees and alumni in order to access personal data, have the ability to make data created in the HR system portable and give control to the employee to decide what data is accessible by the organisation and how it is used.

4 key HR data considerations for HR

  1. We have become a society that casually and freely hands over our data to organisations in exchange for a service we desire. However, we are seeing the potential risk and abuse taking place, forcing us to reassess our data ownership rights.
  2. New Government legislation is being enacted in many countries to improve the transparency and use of personal data held by organisations. While this is currently very customer-centric, the writing is on the wall for data stored in HR technology systems.
  3. Employees will ultimately demand full transparency of their personal data held by their employer and will be empowered to control how that data is used. This could have significant implications for HR tech vendors and employers.
  4. Current HR solutions are not geared to deal with personal data stores and will require fundamental redesign to integrate, share and offer control of data to the employee.

This article was written by Presence of IT's Rob Scott on LinkedIn.