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“Big Brother” in Swiss companies? Trust, data and personal privacy of employees

 

Big Data can make companies more productive. In Switzerland, as in other countries, firms are increasingly introducing new technologies to monitor their employees’ performance. However, unreasonable monitoring can destroy trust in the employer. We want to show how companies can avoid this.

Portrait / project description (ongoing research project)

Our work is divided into four phases:

  1. First of all, we will build up a Swiss network of partners from the real-world setting, in which all relevant stakeholders are represented.
  2. We will carry out a large-scale survey of Swiss companies to find out how Big Data is currently being used in the workplace.
  3. Detailed case studies will then identify best practices.
  4. We will use the data to construct a model that covers a wide range of workplace/private life scenarios, which we will then test and develop further in dialogue with industry.

We will share the resulting data and findings with the national and international scientific community as well as with the participating companies in Switzerland.

Background

Data-based decisions should make businesses more productive, transparent and flexible, and promote fairness. Big Data analyses are in increasing demand in human resources (HR) management because they enable companies to monitor the performance of their employees more effectively. However, Big Data in the workplace presents risks as well as many opportunities. Excessive monitoring of employees can lead to a loss of trust, which wipes out the economic advantages of Big Data.

Aim

We want to answer the following questions

  1. Which Big Data methods are Swiss companies currently using in HR management?
  2. To what extent do these foster or damage trust in the employer?
  3. What scope for improvement is there from the HR, ethical and legal perspectives?

We aim to enter into a dialogue with industry, and we will carry out empirical investigations using a number of methods, such as case studies and a large-scale survey of Swiss companies.

Relevance/application

Many aspects of our project are groundbreaking. At present no hard data is available on how Swiss companies use Big Data methods in HR management and what the impact of these methods is on trust in the employer. Furthermore, ethical and legal considerations have been ignored in this context. Our research, with its interdisciplinary perspective, strengthens Switzerland as a centre of scientific achievement and also has practical applications.

Original title

Big Data or Big Brother? – Big Data HR Control Practices and Employee Trust

Project leaders

  • Prof. Antoinette Weibel, Forschungsinstitut für Arbeit und Arbeitswelten, Universität St. Gallen
  • Dr. Thorsten Busch, Institut für Wirtschaftsethik (IWE), Universität St. Gallen
  • Dr. Christoph Schank, Institut für Wirtschaftsethik (IWE), Universität St. Gallen
  • Prof. Isabelle Wildhaber, FAA-HSG Privat- und Wirtschaftsrecht unter bes. Berücksichtigung des Arbeitsrechts, Universität St. Gallen

 

 

Further information on this content

 Contact

Prof. Antoinette Weibel Forschungsinstitut für Arbeit und Arbeitswelten Universität St. Gallen Müller-Friedberg-Strasse 6/8 9000 St. Gallen Antoinette.Weibel@unisg.ch

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