As EU Regulation Looms, Businesses Scramble for Data Protection Officers

As EU Regulation Looms, Businesses Scramble for Data Protection Officers

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is scheduled to come into force on May 25, represents a massive overhaul of data privacy law throughout the bloc. The GDPR expands the reach of existing privacy regulations, applying not just to European organizations but to all companies processing the personal data of EU residents, no matter where the company is located. It also requires organizations to request users’ consent for data collection “in an intelligible and easily accessible form,” while granting EU citizens a number of new rights, including the right to access data collected about them and the “right to be forgotten,” or to have that data erased. Organizations caught violating the regulation will be fined as much as 4 percent of their annual global turnover or 20 million euros.

With the enforcement date of this massive new regulation just months away, “data protection officers are suddenly the hottest properties in technology,” Reuters’ Salvador Rodriguez reports:

More than 28,000 will be needed in Europe and the US and as many as 75,000 around the globe as a result of GDPR, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) estimates. The organization said it did not previously track DPO figures because, prior to GDPR, Germany and the Philippines were the only countries it was aware of with mandatory DPO laws.

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White House Reviewing EEOC Harassment Protections for LGBT Workers

White House Reviewing EEOC Harassment Protections for LGBT Workers

The White House is reviewing guidelines proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the waning days of the Obama administration to extend the commission’s interpretation of sex-based harassment to include actions based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Lydia Wheeler reports at the Hill. The unusual move has raised fears among civil rights advocates that it represents another effort by the Trump administration to roll back regulatory protections the previous administration sought to provide to LGBT employees:

The language is at odds with the way Cabinet officials in the Trump administration have viewed and carried out the laws governing discrimination, which can include harassment, when it comes to LGBT people. And that’s why civil rights advocates and a former commissioner fear it won’t be approved. …

What’s unusual, former EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang said, is that the guidance is under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and has been since November. Yang, who left the EEOC on Jan. 3, said the proposal is sub-regulatory guidance, which is not typically reviewed by the White House because it’s only an expression of the agency’s policy.

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Several New Studies Tie Diversity to Innovation, Profitability

Several New Studies Tie Diversity to Innovation, Profitability

As more research explores the impact of diversity and inclusion on businesses outcomes, the bottom-line case for diversity and inclusion grows ever stronger. Three studies last month added to this growing body of evidence in favor of D&I, finding that gender parity and racial diversity, particularly in decision-making roles, has a meaningful impact on companies’ innovation, productivity, and profitability.

The first study comes from Richard Warr, a professor of finance at North Carolina State University, his colleague Roger Mayer, and Jing Zhao of Portland State University. The researchers’ headline finding is that companies that score well on indicators of diversity tend to be demonstrably more innovative, Fast Company’s Ben Schiller explained in a post highlighting the study last month:

The study looks at the performance of 3,000 publicly traded companies in the years 2001-2014 across nine measures of diversity. That includes whether firms have women and minority group CEOs, whether they promote women and people of color to “profit and loss responsibilities,” whether they have positive policies on gay and lesbian employees (say, offering benefits to domestic partners), and whether they have programs to hire disabled employees. …

The big takeaway: Companies that fulfill all nine positive diversity requirements announce an average of two extra products in any given year, which about doubles the average for a major company (those that tick fewer boxes are less innovative proportionally). Moreover, the researchers find that companies with pro-diversity policies were also more resilient in terms of innovation during the 2008 financial crisis.

The paper does not conclusively prove a causal relationship between diversity and innovation, Schiller notes—companies that invest in diversity may simply be investing intelligently in other areas that impact product development more directly—but combined with what we already know about how diverse teams are more likely to challenge their assumptions and biases, more likely to engage in productive debate, and able to access a wider range of perspectives, the correlation Warr and his co-authors uncovered looks suggestive.

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Almost Half of CIOs Have Plans to Deploy AI

Almost Half of CIOs Have Plans to Deploy AI

A recent Gartner survey of Chief Information Officers finds that while just four percent have already implemented AI in some form in their businesses, 46 percent have plans in place to do so. Although there are many obstacles to implementing this groundbreaking technology, soon companies that fail to take advantage will lag behind. To help ease the potential pains of diving into adoption, our colleagues who conduct IT management research at Gartner have four recommendations to ensure success in the early stages of AI implementation: start small; focus on helping, not replacing, people; plan for knowledge transfer; and choose transparent solutions.

“Don’t fall into the trap of primarily seeking hard outcomes, such as direct financial gains, with AI projects,” Gartner analyst Whit Andrews explains. “In general, it’s best to start AI projects with a small scope and aim for ‘soft’ outcomes, such as process improvements, customer satisfaction or financial benchmarking.”

Early forays into AI should be learning experiences rather than attempts at large-scale change that dramatically reshape a department or function. It’s important to set modest goals for AI initiatives, given that the most important outcome will be gaining the knowledge and expertise to successfully apply the technology to a work stream. Additionally, while many employees fear AI could replace them, the easiest way to assuage those concerns is to deploy AI solutions that make employees’ lives easier. As Gartner EVP Peter Sondergaard remarked in his observations from the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, AI is expected to create many more jobs than it destroys, while generating massive value and saving billions of hours of worker productivity.

That means there’s an opportunity to get employees engaged with AI adoption as a technology that will make their jobs easier, rather than obsolete.

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State–Federal Clash on Immigration Squeezes California Employers

State–Federal Clash on Immigration Squeezes California Employers

US President Donald Trump’s agenda of expanded detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants has been frustrated by the refusal of some states and cities to participate the federal authorities’ crackdown, which opponents say unfairly targets non-criminals and makes immigrant communities less safe by eroding their trust in the police. Last September, California passed a law prohibiting employers in the state from voluntarily allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents onsite to conduct immigration inspections or to access employee records without a warrant or court order.

In an apparent response to the state’s defiance, ICE has stepped up enforcement raids in California this year, as well as other jurisdictions that have passed “sanctuary” laws barring local authorities from cooperating with federal agents in immigration enforcement. These laws have enraged Trump and ICE director Thomas Homan, who have accused legislators in these areas of endangering citizens and officers to protect undocumented criminals. California lawmakers counter that they are merely insisting that ICE agents show documents they are already federally required to present before conducting inspections.

This tension between Sacramento and Washington has put California employers between a rock and a hard place, Nour Malas reports at the Wall Street Journal, as they receive conflicting instructions from state and federal authorities and fear being targeted by one for cooperating with the other. In response to the recent wave of raids, Democratic State Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned employers that they could face legal action by the state if they voluntarily hand over information about their employees to ICE.

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Maryland Sick Leave Law Comes into Effect

Maryland Sick Leave Law Comes into Effect

A new Maryland law requiring most employers in the state to provide paid sick leave for their employees came into effect this week after the state House rejected a Senate effort to delay it until July, CBS Baltimore reported on Wednesday:

While most Maryland employers provide paid sick leave, analysts estimated about 700,000 people didn’t have the benefit which this law will now change. …

It applies to businesses with at least 15 employees, providing one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, and businesses with fewer than 15 get unpaid job protective leave, which also applies to part-time workers. … This law requires businesses to provide five days of sick leave for full-time employees. Backers of the policy see it as an overall benefit for both companies and their staff.

Like sick-leave laws passed recently in other jurisdictions like New York City, Maryland’s law also allows employees to use their sick leave entitlement to address matters of domestic violence, such as going to court to obtain protective orders against abusers or dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault.

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Fitbit Moves into Enterprise Space with Twine Health Acquisition

Fitbit Moves into Enterprise Space with Twine Health Acquisition

The wearable technology company Fitbit, known for its ubiquitous fitness-tracking bracelets, announced on Tuesday that it was acquiring Twine Health, a cloud-based health coaching platform designed to help employers manage chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension in the workplace and aid employees in lifestyle changes such as weight loss and smoking cessation. The company describes the move as an expansion into the workplace wellness space:

With this acquisition, Fitbit further extends its reach into healthcare and lays the foundation to expand its offerings to health plans, health systems and self-insured employers, while creating opportunities to increase subscription-based revenue. The acquisition will combine the power of the Fitbit platform to drive lasting behavior change with Twine Health’s clinical expertise and proven ability to help patients better manage their care through a highly scalable platform and coaching model. In the longer term, Fitbit will have the opportunity to extend the benefits of the Twine platform to its more than 25 million users and expand into new condition areas.

As the leading manufacturer of fitness tracking devices, Fitbit was already a significant figure in the growing drive to incorporate these technologies into workplace wellness programs by collecting employee health and fitness data and using it to target interventions. The company has been sharpening its focus on this market for some time now, Paul Sawers observes at VentureBeat:

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