The increasing importance of data in organizations has spun through the business world and landed firmly at HR's feet
The increasing importance of data in organizations has spun through the business world and landed firmly at HR’s feet. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal through to the impact of GDPR on client lists, any and all businesses need to sit up and take responsibility for the ethical handling of their data lists.
One man who knows the importance of HR’s role in data regulation is Roberto Maranca - a leading Chief Data Officer who’s worked for the likes of Lloyds and GE Capital. We caught up with him to talk through the growing relevance of the people function in the emerging world of data.
“Data and HR is an incredibly powerful combination,” prefaced Maranca. “If you look at what’s causing CEOs and CIOs sleepless nights, it’s their data. Everyone wants to do more with data – wants better insights, more predictability, more agility.
“And yet, if you consider what’s affecting leaders’ ability to become more proficient with data, it’s not technology: luckily, there’s an app for everything nowadays. There’s always something out there that’s able to efficiently solve your conundrum – whatever it may be. Tech’s not the issue, it’s the internal culture of companies. Data is nothing but a huge monumental change problem and it’s a change of lifestyle for the majority of corporations.”
These key data professionals need to be more combative at implementing change, according to Maranca. He went on to compare the new data ecosystem as an organ that needs to be transplanted into the complex body of modern business.
“The operation is tricky even if you’re purely looking at the technological fabric of the company and not taking into consideration people’s natural fear of change that acts like antibodies and rejects the new,” continued Maranca. “cleaning data is a very tedious job, and most firms have quite a bit of backlog, though as leaders of this change we ought to find a way to make such programs something employees want to be a part of; looking to the future with curiosity and hope rather than anxiety.”
The two groups of HR and Data need to work much closer together. The type of problems that data and integration presents cannot be solved by one person or one team. Maranca referenced the recent Facebook scandal, and how the US may now soon be forced to implement something similar to the UK’s current GDPR initiative; building on the ethics behind data storage and expanding on what should and shouldn’t be done with personal information.
“Data people and HR practitioners need to be a team,” Maranca explained. “At the end of the day, if you want something sustainably implemented by employees, you have to win over their hearts and minds in order for them to fully back the process. HR’s got a prominent role in that.”
Maranca’s also been talking about ethics in data for a while now, and the data industry isnfinally starting to sit up and take note.
“I recorded a podcast two weeks before the Cambridge Analytic debacle broke, and it aired two days after the event, so it looked like it was “planted”. In reality, I’ve been saying for a while that the growth of the future will be fuelled by the trust that’s only achieved through the ethical treatment of data. The ethical approach is one which companies need to turn around their mindset to.
“Perhaps what mostly upset people in regards to the Cambridge Analytica debacle was the continuous reference to not having done actually anything unlawful. In the eye of an ever more data savvy public that doesn’t make it right! Organizations will be always judged on whether they act lawfully, but at the same time staying within the boundaries of what is ethically right for third parties like employees, customers, investors will become an essential part of doing business.
From an HR perspective, demonstrating ethical approach will go so far in helping with a company’s brand and overall talent attraction if the values of the company themselves would not have translated to their data too.
“For Being an employer of choice, you’ll have to demonstrate a well-rounded commitment to your social responsibilities, volunteering, green initiatives, community support and, on top of that, ethical treatment of data,” summarized Maranca. “Otherwise prospective employees, especially in the youngest generations, will simply choose another brand.”