How Having a Clear Data Ethics Policy Increases Employee Trust & Loyalty believes in a near future where organizations will adopt clear, simple to understand and transparent data ethics policies. This must be combined with a supporting data collection architecture and methodology that protects the individual freedom to express feelings, anonymously.

You may ask yourself: why is this important? Because, we believe, a healthy transparent and enforced data ethics culture promotes loyalty and trust.

In organizations without clarity on sentiment data ethics, and a commitment to build a culture where the freedom to express your emotions is embraced from the top down, people’s real feelings, compromised by consequences, will have increasingly negative impacts for organizational trust and loyalty.

We know, when questioned, that most people are likely to exhibit the “Say-Do” Gap, where they say what they think leadership wants to hear. Staying in the Gap is a necessary precaution to protect themselves from consequences that negatively impact their professional trajectory: a promotion stalled, a career path stymied, or worse.

We witness evidence weekly that disguised retaliation, and potential termination, occurs when people express themselves honestly and constructively in many large organizations. Leadership will say “How do we manage through this? Our Boards don’t like it; our employees don’t trust us, and we are having trouble retaining great people.”

The answer, we believe, is in adopting, and sharing from the top, a clear emotional (sentiment) data ethics policy, collection architecture and a culture to adhere to and protect those guiding principles.

As a CPO or CHRO, how can you start a conversation about establishing a responsible emotional data ethics policy?

The first component is clarity on your company’s data ethics culture. Think carefully about how to ensure that your colleagues, all of them, understand that they have freedom to constructively express their feelings about your company, brand and its workplace. Clearly state that there are not negative consequences for questioning the status quo about diversity, equality, harassment, or feelings regarding the marketing practices and very products that the company promotes.

Early in the process, while respecting the role and partnership with your legal team, drive the writing and clarity of your policy in simple to comprehend language. This is essential for your ethics to be well understood and embraced.

Technology, as it has throughout history, has once again driven us to the point of requiring an ethical sentiment data code. Real harm exists in the digital world, just like in real life. Several thousand years ago, when moral standards were undefined, many religions filled the space with teachings. We are reminded that Humanity has consistently been challenged to re-define ethical codes of equality in order to evolve and sustain a healthy human network.

Recall the founding timeline of the major religions:

Each of these religions and many not mentioned, in part, addressed the challenges of how to build a sustainable and healthy human ethical code and culture—albeit, back in the day. Some issues, for example, women’s rights and diversity, require rethinking today. And, when Big Data collection is rampant, Yawye presents the need to establish sentiment data ethics if you desire to have a culture that promotes loyalty and trust.

Without it, your company will be challenged with a growing velocity of turnover, unable to attract the retain next-gen workers for whom these issues of data ethics and the freedom to express themselves— are essential.

You may disagree and point to surveys that show many people are unconcerned about the use of their personal data. That’s for a future discussion paper. But do you believe that people, especially next-gen, will stand for their authentic emotions about their workplace culture to be used against them; or ignored? If so, you are at risk, financially with retention issues, and with problems that become systemic impacting engagement and productivity. America now has an $80B cost from recruitment and retention issues. Will your leadership remain immune from that? Hardly.

Here are a few major issues to consider that have helped us and we share them to encourage a dialogue from everyone reading this.

Yawye’s data ethics policy starts with:

  1. Freedom of expression
  2. Commitment to understanding people’s feelings and the context of their expressions
  3. A workplace culture that admires transparency, equality and diversity
  4. Zero retribution for constructive emotional expression

Once you construct a set of principles and the policies that guide their implementation, you will need a data collection architecture that consciously protects user anonymity. People often confuse privacy and anonymity. Privacy is the concept of keeping things you feel, think or do, entirely to yourself, or to a limited group of people whom you trust. Anonymity is when you want people to know what you feel, think or do, just not that it’s you.

The trust wall is easily broken in our digital world. In “real life”, aka in person, one can decide whether to voice feelings or opinions based on whether you trust the person you are sharing them with to keep them confidential. In the digital world, as we are seeing with hacks and data-based targeting, once your personal emotional data is “in the wild”, you lose control over who sees them, and how they are used. Sometimes, data is used for what most people agree are good purposes: to receive relevant ads or content on a free-tier service. Sometimes, and with increasing alarm, data is used for ethically irresponsible purposes: to target you with political content, creating echo chambers where truth is often masked for a nefarious purpose.

Inside organizations without anonymity, we believe people will not share their true feelings because they do not feel safe; there is no way to guarantee privacy. We call this “Anonymity by Design”. It is the central design principle of our Yawye Player to harvest data about employees’ emotions. Even we do not know how individuals respond–and this is for good reason: we do not want our data to ever be used to undermine trust and loyalty.

Once a clear set of emotional data ethics policies and an architecture are set, you need to share these ethics with everyone that touches your company: shareholders, employees, consumers and partners.

We believe this is the beginning of a blueprint in modern times to build a culture with high trust and high loyalty. We see early examples of leaders that are defining and sharing these values, for example #MarcBenioff. He is encouraging a move towards modern capitalism, where employees are treated as equal stakeholders alongside customers and shareholders.

Early days, and we encourage feedback, ideas, builds and rips to:

Empathy is the new intelligence. We are listening.

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