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Dealing with privacy concerns among employees

Most employees expect their employers to protect their personal information on some level, and each country has established its own guidelines to maintain this expectation of privacy.

As more business functions are completed on  corporate IT networks, an increasing amount of information about companies and their employees is captured online. This raises concerns about employee privacy that organizations will need to handle carefully, particularly when conducting global incentive program initiatives or other company-wide efforts.

Most employees expect their employers to protect their personal information on some level, and each country has established its own guidelines to maintain this expectation of privacy.  These laws are gradually shifting to include more protection for employees.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently expanded privacy protection to workplace computers. The court stated that employees have a legitimate expectation of privacy, and ruled that delving into a worker's internet browsing history was a violation of this expected trust.

Other countries are following the trend set by the Canadian court. In the U.S., the Electronic Communications Privacy Act restricts access to personal information, while the US-EU Safe Harbor program establishes guidelines for preventing disclosure or loss of personal data among organizations operating in both the U.S. and Europe.

Privacy compliance within incentive and recognition programs
Privacy is a large concern for  businesses launching global incentive programs. Such initiatives often require tracking employee progress, and storing performance data. Before integrating systems to run these initiatives, companies will need to notify staff that their personal information may be collected and stored on the servers. To maintain compliance with the Safe Harbor program, companies need to provide individuals with the choice to opt out of such initiatives, and must also educate staff members about how their information will be used so they can make informed decisions. Being upfront about why the data is needed and how it will be used could prevent a lot of potential problems.

Even after employees have been informed of their choice to opt out, businesses must take the appropriate steps to protect the data's integrity. With all organization-wide programs, firms need to address issues about access and ensure that only information relevant to the programs is collected. 

Managers may need to access the information to effectively run the programs, but businesses must determine how far that access should extend. Limiting supervisors' access to data pertaining to workers within their departments could prevent potential problems. These considerations may seem to complicate recognition programs, but incentive solutions providers will carefully outline privacy issues and ensure information is reasonably protected.

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