Analytics & Intelligence: How to Embrace Big Data & Protect Employee Privacy without Compromise

Posted on by Isaac Kohen

Today’s organizations have unparalleled access to information and analytics, allowing them to be data-driven in every direction. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, more than 75% of all organizations see analytics playing an increasingly prominent role in the next three years, as many companies rate this facet of their business more important than elements like reputation management, cybersecurity and talent acquisition.

Deloitte notes that many of these data-gathering initiatives are evaluating business processes, customer experience and performance measurements. In other words, companies are assembling information on their employees, which is why it’s estimated that nearly 80% of all organizations are implementing some expression of employee monitoring.

Indeed, today’s organizations have a plethora of compelling software products that can assess everything from employee productivity to customer service initiatives, giving every company an inside look at its day-to-day operations. Of course, in 2020, big data is as much a buzz word as it is a menace, especially for employees worried about compromising their personal privacy in the name of insights and analytics.

Simply put, when monitoring employees to power a data-driven organization, companies need to consider the human element of the task. In doing so, they position themselves to gather the insights necessary for success without sacrificing employee trust, privacy or autonomy. Here is what you need to know to get started.

Monitor with Privacy in Mind

In 2020, few topics excite people as much as personal privacy. After more than a decade of unprecedented participation in a digital infrastructure that exchanged privacy for the privilege of accessing digital platforms, the proverbial pendulum has swung back toward privacy.

This burgeoning trend is evidence in the flurry of data privacy regulations sweeping the globe, which offer protections for consumers and employees alike. Regardless of the purpose, monitoring initiatives have to accommodate privacy demands, something that the best software is already equipped to handle.

For instance, the right software solutions will allow IT administrators to:

  • Auto redact private data like bank account or personal email account information
  • Customize monitoring times and locations
  • Limit monitoring to specific applications, tasks or times
  • Suspend keystroke or screen monitoring when users engage in personal tasks

Not only does privacy-first monitoring demonstrate respect for employees, but it also means that companies are collecting only the information that will make their businesses run more smoothly and efficiently.

In a real way, today’s big data landscape is more akin to drinking from a firehose than delineating tangible, actionable implications from collected data. Privacy-first monitoring benefits everyone, and it should be a top priority for every organization implementing or refining its data analytics practices.

Clearly Communicate Purpose, Method and Standards

In addition to providing the insights necessary to run an intelligent, data-driven organization, employee monitoring can serve many other purposes as well. For instance, it’s estimated that 95% of all data breaches involve a human element, making employee monitoring a critical tool for securing company data against insider threats.

However, regardless of the use case, companies need to avoid a catchall approach to monitoring initiatives. Instead, they need to identify their purpose for monitoring, allowing methods and data management standards to flow from that starting point.

For example, monitoring initiatives intended to prevent data loss will target workflow-specific vulnerabilities and include endpoint data loss protection as part of its implementation. Meanwhile, purely data-gathering or productivity-assessing monitoring will be more concerned with apps used, time spent on non-work activities and other relevant indicators.

While employees are often willing to get on board with purpose-specific monitoring, they are likely to chat at broad-brush actions. In this way, if companies aren’t careful, they can imbue their employees with a sense of being unnecessarily watched—like someone is constantly lurking over their shoulders. By identifying the purpose for monitoring and communicating the justification behind the methodology, it’s possible to avoid this problem.

Level the Playing Field

Data-driven organizations excel when this priority is a top-down operation, not a bottom-up obligation. Therefore, it stands to reason that employee monitoring initiatives developed to collect data for analytics and intelligence purposes should extend to all levels of the company. Not only will this increase employee buy-in, but it helps organizations deliver on every other priority associated with monitoring.

Writing on the importance of this facet, the Harvard Business Review writes, “Data privacy standards must be respected and adhered to, and trustworthy stewardship must be demonstrated. This level of data governance investment and discipline needs to come from the top down.”

When led and embraced from the top, monitoring can provide the insights necessary to make meaningful changes at every level, improving business structures along the way. Since monitoring programs are almost always instituted from the top, leaders can choose to make this a day-one priority to maximize effectiveness and trust at the same time.

Closing Thoughts: Prioritize People

In today’s digital environment where technology dominates our personal and professional lives, it’s all too easy to forget about the people behind every device. Undoubtedly, today’s tech offers companies unparalleled avenues to reach their customers, oversee their staff experiences and generally produce a better product.

When people are the top priority, each of these priorities can work together in a symbiotic relationship that holistically capitalizes on today’s opportunities without compromise.

Isaac Kohen

CTO and Founder, Teramind

Analytics, Intelligence & Response

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