Can you keep a secret? How about your staff?

It’s not just American presidents who can be indiscrete and share potentially sensitive information with people they shouldn’t. While recollections of exactly what was said at that meeting by Donald Trump vary, there was definitely the potential for inappropriate information sharing, even if it was dressed up as politics or diplomacy.

Now unless you work in the Security Services, the Military or are a senior Civil servant, it’s unlikely that you and your staff will be in possession of such top secret information. However that doesn’t mean that the information your staff know and / or have access to is safe and risk free.  While they might not be the next Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, information is a valuable commodity.

There are companies and people out there who will pay money for information and aren’t always too​ scrupulous about where it comes from. While some things such as bank details or credit card information have an obvious financial value (when misused), other personal details can be useful and valuable to “scammers”, criminals​ or even marketing and advertising companies too.  This personal information could be about your customers but not always; it could be about your staff too.

As well as personal data, there will be other information that could be useful and valuable to others. It could be information from your customer database, it could be product information or technical data, your business strategy or your research programme – the list goes on.

So why would others getting this information be a problem you might ask? If you work in a competitive, commercial industry it could potentially give your competitors a helping hand to outperform you or compete more effectively against you. You’ve worked hard to build up your customer base and you wouldn’t want them suddenly buying from your competitors instead. It might help them undercut you on price or to negotiate better deals with your suppliers than you have. All is fair in love, war and business?

As for personal data, especially the type that is “sensitive”, you and your organisation have a legal obligation to store, manage and use it in line with current legislation. (The Data Protection Act 1998) If you are found to have breached the legislation, either accidentally or deliberately, the Information Commissioner can issue a penalty notice or a fine of up to £500,000.  You also need to be mindful that the Data Protection Act is about to be updated and there will be new obligations and regulations that come into effect in 2018. While you might be compliant now, you might not be by next year.

So what can you do about this potential information minefield? While it’s great to hear that you trust your staff that isn’t enough, or certainly isn’t as far as the Information Commissioner is concerned. Here are some suggestions of what you might wish to put in place:

  • A data protection policy and guidance and a contractual clause about the employee’s duties and obligations.
  • The relevant processes and procedures that support your data protection policy are vital too.
  • An appropriately worded confidentiality clause – either as part of staff contracts of employment or as a stand alone document.
  • An appropriately worded intellectual property clause would be useful for your staff working in research and development, or any other product development area.
  • IT guidance about file sharing, downloads and uploads, emails and social media can remind staff to think about what they share and send, and how they do it.

(This isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully gives some food for thought.)

Depending how much of a risk you potentially face, you need to put the appropriate measures in place now before a problem arises. Once the problem or data breach occurs it’s too late…. You can’t undo what’s been said / saved / sent however much you want to and however much you try to rewrite history. (Politicians take note!)

Does the C-suite know what good people practices look like?

One of the million dollar questions in every business is whether the CEO and the senior management team know what good looks like. Because if they don’t, how will they set standards and manage upwards to achieve better results? To compete? To grow? To survive…

There are some areas of the business that they will feel confident, are the main areas to focus on:

Product development
Customer service
Finances and financial performance
IT systems and core infrastructure
Marketing and PR.

But often it is the area of people management, HR, recruitment, the workers, the workforce and the future of work that they will feel less sure about.

In the Harvard Business Review, July-August 2015 edition, Peter Cappelli wrote about “Why we love to hate HR…and what HR can do about it” and observed that “CEO’s and operating executives are rarely experts on workplace issues”.

Many companies say to us that what they have in their HR function is OK or fine or adequate. Many HR professionals talk to us privately about clear areas that could be improved and express frustration that the business doesn’t agree.

In the above mentioned HBR article Cappelli mentioned a Head of HR at a leading corporation who had survived lots of restructurings and was asked about the key to his success. His response was “I do whatever the CEO wants”.

That can happen to HR professionals. HR can become a function more adept at being defensive than inspiring. They go into survival mode and don’t energetically tackle key issues that need their drive. Issues around culture, investment in cutting edge technology, the changing face of the workforce, identifying the workers of tomorrow and ditching the employment practices of yesteryear.

Appraisals are a fine example of an HR practice that we’d say most HR professionals know don’t work. Can you imagine colleagues in Marketing or Finance persevering with such a practice? Especially if it costs great amounts of time and money and critically, damaged their internal brand?

Individuals go into HR because they have vision, insight, energy and enthusiasm about the workplace and people practices. Many have transformational skills in the areas of coaching, recruitment, listening and reflecting that the business they work in doesn’t notice or value.

It is the job of any CEO to make sure they nurture and develop their HR team and if they need external support to help them identify what good looks like then that is a priority. The one thing the C-suite will be united on is the importance of people, innovation and competitive advantage.

Often the HR department is the last place they look or a function that is pared down to the bone, dramatically under invested in compared to other functions (that they understand better) or focusing on the wrong priorities.

Making that re-connection between HR and the business; helping develop business cases for progress and change. Re-energising that relationship by running workshops for the C-suite and HR to define what good looks like is part of what gets us out of bed every morning.

 

Does the C-suite know what good people practices look like?

One of the million dollar questions in every business is whether the CEO and the senior management team know what good looks like. Because if they don’t how will they set standards and manage upwards to achieve better results? To compete? To grow? To survive..

There will be some areas of the business that they will feel more about doing this.

Product development
Customer service
Finances and financial performance
IT systems and core infrastructure
Marketing and PR

But often it is the area of people management, HR, recruitment, the workers, the workforce and the future of work that they will feel less sure about.

In the Harvard Business Review, July-August 2015 edition, Peter Cappelli wrote about “Why we love to hate HR…and what HR can do about it” and observed that “CEO’s and operating executives are rarely experts on workplace issues”.

Many companies say to us that what they have in their HR function is OK or fine or adequate. Many HR professionals talk to us privately about clear areas that could be improved and express frustration that the business doesn’t agree.

In the above mentioned HBR article Cappelli mentioned a Head of HR at a leading corporation who had survived lots of restructurings and was asked about the key to his success. His response was “I do whatever the CEO wants”.

That can happen to HR professionals. HR can become a function more adept at being defensive than inspiring. They go into survival mode and don’t energetically tackle key issues that need their drive. Issues around culture, investment in cutting edge technology, the changing face of the workforce, identifying the workers of tomorrow and ditching the employment practices of yesteryear.

Appraisals are a fine example of an HR practice that we’d say most HR professionals know doesn’t work. Can you imagine colleagues in Marketing or Finance persevering with such a practice? Especially if it cost huge amounts of time and money and critically, damaged their internal brand?

Individuals go into HR because they have vision, insight, energy and enthusiasm about the workplace and people practices. Many have transformational skills in the areas of coaching, recruitment, listening and reflecting that the business they work in doesn’t notice or value.

It is the job of any CEO to make sure they nurture and develop their HR team and if they need external support to help them identify what good looks like then that is a priority. The one thing the C-suite will be united on is the importance of people, innovation and competitive advantage.

Often the HR department is the last place they look or a function that is pared down to the bone, dramatically under invested in compared to other functions (that they understand better) or focusing on the wrong priorities.

Making that re-connection between HR and the business. Helping develop business cases for progress and change. Re energising that relationship.
Running workshops for the C-suite and HR to define what good looks like. Being part of that is what gets us out of bed every morning.