Things to Remember While Collecting Sensitive Employee Data
#BlackLivesMatter and #Metoo movements have shown society a mirror. We may think that we have come a long way and are no more part of the society that works in an orthodox manner. But these incidents time and again remind us of our reality. We are not progressing at the speed we thought; infact, we are still far behind.
It is the reason why more and more companies are taking their DEI initiatives now seriously. They are going beyond meeting diversity goals and shifting their focus to real issues that hamper the fabric of society and their companies, even if that means going the extra mile.
1. Legal Obligations to Collecting Employee Data
As the famous adage goes – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. To protect employees, companies must have all the correct data in place to measure, analyze, and work upon.
But to collect such vast and sensitive data – demographic, gender, race, ethnicity – is not easy.
You don’t want to intrude into employees’ privacy and make them uncomfortable. However, you do need the data. It helps you get hold of your workforce composition, prevent biases that may penetrate, protect the vulnerable section of society that may be subjected to discrimination, and more.
Also, there are legal obligations that a company has to abide by. Such as private employers with more than 100 employees are required to report gender, race, and ethnicity data to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In the U.S., failure to comply with standards set by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) can result in significant penalties. And for employees based in the E.U., H.R. managers must also ensure all data handling processes comply with the GDPR.
Even when your company has fewer than 100 employees, it is recommended to collect DEI information. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and other protected characteristics.
2. Things to Remember While Collecting Sensitive Employee Data
Companies can collect employee data in two simple ways. Either they can outsource the work to a third party or can handle it internally. Given the cost of outsourcing and privacy risks, small companies may prefer to do it internally.
However, large companies may choose to pick third-party vendors. Since third-party vendors have experience handling a vast amount of data, they can better maintain, manage, segregate, and analyze tons of data without compromising security. They perform data cleansing, anonymization, and aggregation to minimize the risk of privacy violations by employees.
Whichever method you choose, there are a few things that you should keep in check.
- Restrict the access of such data to a few authorized personnel. Create a strict guideline for who can access and work on the data. You can use the data masking technique to hide the actual data with modified content like characters or numbers.
- Use administration tools that offer encryption and strong password protection on the database.
- Collect a minimum amount of data that is necessary to make decisions.
- Allow employees to amend or delete the data if they change their minds.
- Communicate clearly about the purpose of data collection and its ultimate use.
3. Collecting Employee Data
Convincing employees to provide their personal data can be tricky. You should first ensure that you are only curating the necessary details. Providing too much information can be uncomfortable for employees and may lead to unnecessary suspicion. But then, what is the proper process to collect the data? How should companies approach it?
Find a sponsor
To start such a sensitive process, first, you must earn the confidence of your employees. And you cannot achieve that without the interference of a person from a senior-level position. Pick someone from the management who is trustworthy and who everyone listens to. Make them your advocate.
Now, ask the sponsor to put forth a concrete plan that clarifies in and out of the data collection activity and pulls out any skepticism from the picture. The more details you provide, the better trust you can gain. Therefore you must elaborate on,
- Purpose of data collection,
- Where it would be used and
- How will collected data be protected
- How exactly the data will change the company policies or performance
- Assure them of data anonymity
Conduct surveys after conducting an informative session on a topic.
For instance, if you organized a session on LGBTQ+ awareness, you must conduct a survey to pick employees’ thoughts after the session. Surveys give you a general trend about any topic.
Also, decide the level of data you want to collect and, accordingly, draft your surveys. Surveys that use a set of pre-determined answers are easier to analyze, interpret, and look at than open-ended data. However, open-ended data usually gives more detailed answers.
Use HRIS Tools
Rather than collecting data, again and again, utilize your Human Resource Information System (HRIS). It stores the information in a centralized format and gives both – employees and employers – easy access to the data.
HRIS tools store a diverse range of data that actually benefits the H.R.s at the time of decision or policymaking. Processes and data it tracks encompass applicant tracking, onboarding, payroll, performance management, and accounting functions. This means HRIS tools collect a diverse range of data that can be further utilized during data analysis.
Best part about HRIS tools is it provides a personal account to every employee, where employees can store or update all their official records or access office documents. It adds a layer of security to the whole process.
These tools are going a step ahead and ensuring employee privacy with the two-factor authentication. Here, in addition to passwords, employees also have to type in OTPs to access their accounts, making the complete process more secure.
Some of the most popular HRIS vendors include:
- Infor CloudSuite HCM
- Kronos Workforce
- Oracle HCM Cloud
- SAP SuccessFactors
- Ultimate Software UltiPro
Related Articles: Your One-Step Guide to Building an HR Tech Stack
Summing It Up
You cannot take the data collection process for granted. Be it ensuring compliance or regulatory issues, the level of complexity while dealing with sensitive employee data is high. Therefore you must provide restricted data access and a high level of encryption.
Also, be smart about data collection techniques. Demarcate the line between personal and public data and then use surveys, HRIS tools, and sponsors to collect data in a trustworthy manner.
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