Ellyn Shook Accenture
'Trust is the ultimate currency — it’s the path to innovation and fuels growth by unlocking people’s potential,' says Ellyn Shook, Accenture's chief leadership officer

Building trust for success in the digital workplace

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Emma Gordon

Workplaces are changing. Companies are using technology to understand how buildings are being used and how their employees work. As we interact with intelligent machines, we leave a growing trail of data that can help employers gain insight to improve productivity and performance. Research from Accenture, a management consultancy, suggests the approach businesses take to using information directly contributes to commercial success or failure.

In its ‘Decoding Organizational DNA‘ report, Accenture says the difference in revenue growth rates between losing and earning employee trust through responsible use of workforce data is as much as 12.5%, or $3.1trn globally.

It seems there’s plenty of work to do before businesses get their approach to data right. The paper says while 62% of businesses are using technology and sources of workplace data, from a range of sources such as wearable devices, work applications and smart sensors, extensively, only 30% of companies are very confident they’re using it in a highly responsible way.

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The good news is the overwhelming majority, 92%, of workers are open to the collection of data on them and their work if it improves their performance, wellbeing or provides other benefits.

Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s chief leadership and human resources officer, said: “At a time when companies are using newly available workforce data to drive greater value, responsible leadership is the key to building employee trust. Trust is the ultimate currency — it’s the path to innovation and fuels growth by unlocking people’s potential.”

The research, which looks at feedback from 10,000 workers and 1,400 high level executives across 13 industries including tech, public services and healthcare across 13 countries, sets out a three-point framework for responsible use of workforce data.

  • Empower people with greater control of their own data

Seventy percent of employees say in return for permission to collect data, employers will have to give them more control over how it is used and offer benefits like customised compensation and learning and development.

  • Leaders should involve employees in the design of workforce data systems, but put in place accountable executives

Around a third of businesses currently co-create these systems with employees, this includes training people on using AI, while only 19 percent of business leaders said a high-level executive was accountable for ethical workplace data initiatives; however, a further 48% plan on making such an appointment.

  • Use technology in responsible and creative new ways to elevate people and fix unintended consequences

Ninety-four percent of leaders agreed AI could help identify workers’ hidden skills; 57% of employees say using workforce data will improve their lives and business performance. Mark Knickrehm, group chief executive, Accenture Strategy, said: “Trust has evolved from a soft corporate issue to a quantifiable metric with bottom line impact on revenue, EBITDA [a measure of a company’s operating performance] and, ultimately, growth through competitive agility.”

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