The Ethics of People Analytics: Risks, Opportunities and Recommendations

Aizhan Tursunbayeva, Claudia Pagliari, Stefano Di Lauro, Gilda Antonelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This research analyzed the existing academic and grey literature concerning the technologies and practices of people analytics (PA), to understand how ethical considerations are being discussed by researchers, industry experts and practitioners, and to identify gaps, priorities and recommendations for ethical practice.
An iterative “scoping review” method was used to capture and synthesize relevant academic and grey literature. This is suited to emerging areas of innovation where formal research lags behind evidence from professional or technical sources.
Although the grey literature contains a growing stream of publications aimed at helping PA practitioners to “be ethical,” overall, research on ethical issues in PA is still at an early stage. Optimistic and technocentric perspectives dominate the PA discourse, although key themes seen in the wider literature on digital/data ethics are also evident. Risks and recommendations for PA projects concerned transparency and diverse stakeholder inclusion, respecting privacy rights, fair and proportionate use of data, fostering a systemic culture of ethical practice, delivering benefits for employees, including ethical outcomes in business models, ensuring legal compliance and using ethical charters.
Research limitations/implications
This research adds to current debates over the future of work and employment in a digitized, algorithm-driven society.
Practical implications
The research provides an accessible summary of the risks, opportunities, trade-offs and regulatory issues for PA, as well as a framework for integrating ethical strategies and practices.
By using a scoping methodology to surface and analyze diverse literatures, this study fills a gap in existing knowledge on ethical aspects of PA. The findings can inform future academic research, organizations using or considering PA products, professional associations developing relevant guidelines and policymakers adapting regulations. It is also timely, given the increase in digital monitoring of employees working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPersonnel Review
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Workforce analytics
  • People Analytics
  • Future of Work
  • Human Resource Information Systems
  • Big Data
  • AI
  • Profiling
  • Surveillance
  • COVID-19
  • Digital Health
  • Privacy
  • Data Ethics
  • Digital Ethics
  • AI Ethics
  • Workers' rights


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