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The Trust Imperative

Decoding Organizational DNA

Trust, Data and Unlocking Value in the Digital Workplace

Businesses are waking up to a rich new source of growth: vast amounts of data on work and the workforce that have the power to unlock the true potential of their people. This new data can unleash higher levels of business performance—including greater agility, productivity and innovation—and can improve the lives of employees. Almost eight in every ten business leaders we surveyed said using workforce data will help them grow their existing business.

But collecting data (via new technologies such as wearables, online activity and workplace applications) is risky. Misuse of data could compromise privacy or individual rights, prompt incorrect decisions or a misapplication of skills and, ultimately, drive a very consequential loss of employee trust in the organization.

Our research reveals that 62 percent of businesses are using new technologies and sources of workforce data extensively. But only 30 percent of business leaders are very confident that their organization is using the data in a highly responsible way. While employees have concerns, however, they are overwhelmingly in favor of the practice, if the data is collected responsibly and benefits them.

The cost of decoding organizational DNA irresponsibly is high, as are the rewards of getting it right: the difference in growth rates between losing and earning employee trust through the use of workforce data is as much as 12.5 percent, or U.S. $3.1 trillion globally.


of businesses are using new technologies and sources of workforce data extensively.

Only 30%

of C-level executives are very confident that their organization is using workforce data in a highly responsible way.


of employees are open to the collection of data on them and their work in exchange for an improvement in their productivity, their wellbeing or other benefits.


of revenue growth at stake.
The difference in growth rates between losing and earning employee trust through the use of workforce data. It equates to U.S. $3.1 trillion globally.



Eva Sage-Gavin talks trust, data and the digital workplace.

The High-Stakes Pursuit of Trust

If companies build trust in the workforce, they’ll create value—for the business and for individuals. Our research has identified the factors of workforce data practices that employees say most influence their level of trust in their employers, and we have modeled these to reveal the financial impact of failing to decode organizational DNA responsibly. If businesses adopt irresponsible data strategies, they risk losing more than 6 percent of future revenue growth.

But if they adopt responsible strategies, the trust dividend could be worth more than a 6% increase in future revenue growth.


This difference in revenue growth equates to value at stake of more than $3 trillion U.S. dollars.

The Data Trust Dividend: The Impact of Workforce Trust on Financial Performance

Trust level graph

At a time when companies are using newly available workforce data to drive greater value, responsible leadership is the key to building employee trust. Trust is the ultimate currency—it’s the path to innovation and fuels growth by unlocking people’s potential.”

Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, Accenture

About the Research

Accenture combined quantitative and qualitative research techniques to understand and measure the attitudes and readiness of workers and C-level executives regarding the use of workforce data and modeled the effects of collecting this data on employee-employer trust.

The research was carried out in October and November 2018 and included a survey of


Leaders must grant more control to individuals so they can manage and even own their data.

Give to get


of employees say that in return for their permission to collect data, employers will have to give them more control over how it is used.

The most popular benefits to get in return for data are improved productivity and performance; safety at work; fairer pay, promotions and appraisals.

Ask employees whether they want to share data in exchange for certain benefits each time it is collected.


of business leaders do so.


of workers say it would strengthen their trust in their employer.

Co-own Data with Employees


of people want to own their work-related data and take it with them when they leave. That doesn’t mean employers need to give up their own rights, just that they must extend them to workers.

Consider using new capabilities, like blockchain, to let people own some of their work-related data that they can take with them when they leave.


of business leaders are open to it at least to some extent.


of workers say it would strengthen their trust in their employer.

Protect Privacy—Together


of employees are unwilling to let employers collect data if they did not keep it private when the expectation was that they would. Companies must agree with employees about which data should be shared and with whom, and they should aggregate and anonymize data when it is shared beyond the individual.

Airbus developed a proof of concept using blockchain that lets pilots share their verified pilot-training certificates, so that airlines can access it, eliminating the time-consuming cross-checking process and making it easier for pilots to find jobs. This will help the airline industry meet its need for half a million new pilots as airline traffic doubles over the next 20 years.



It’s one thing to earn employee trust. It’s another to maintain it over time. This requires sharing responsibility across the C-suite and even beyond the organization—as well as involving employees in the design of the systems themselves.

Create a System of Checks & Balances

A single C-suite executive should be accountable for ethical workplace data initiatives. Today, only 19 percent of business leaders say that is the case. But a further 48 percent plan on it. One option: Hire a Chief Ethics Officer.

Consider employing ethicists to evaluate the potential impact on employees and society.


of businesses do.


of workers say it would strengthen their trust in their employer.

Co-create Systems with People:

This includes training people how to use data and AI, and encouraging them to challenge these systems and give feedback.

Co-create company data systems with employees that give voice to individuals and society.


of businesses do.


of workers say it would strengthen their trust in their employer.

Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, maintains an internal site called MyCareer which allows employees to keep and update their own data, and even challenge any incorrect or incomplete inputs. “As an employer, we should allow employees to manage aspects of their data, and for it to be a joint exercise,” says Telstra’s David Burns, Group Executive, Global Business Services, Telstra.


Technology is a double-edged sword. It has unintended consequences that impact individuals and society. But used in responsibly new ways, it can itself help fix these downsides, including addressing bias and helping workers control and share their own data securely.

Open Opportunities, Don’t Constrain Them

AI can help businesses identify people’s hidden and adjacent skills, easing reskilling and retaining workers whose roles are displaced by automation. 94 percent of business leaders agree.

Test and validate outcomes and recommendations of AI algorithms.


of businesses do.


of workers say it would strengthen their trust in their employer.

Reduce Bias—Everywhere

AI can identify gender bias in job postings and rectify them. 80 percent of employees say having reliable, factual data gathered by new technologies would improve fairness in hiring decisions.

Grow People, Don’t Penalize Them

Resist the temptations of surveillance, and use data to improve how teams work or to personalize training. 57 percent of employees say that the use of workplace data will improve their lives and business performance.

Decode Human + Machine DNA

The new relationship developing between machines and people generates a wealth of data. 70 percent of business leaders say measuring the joint performance of people working with intelligent machines would be extremely or very important to improving organizational performance.

Consider expanding the Chief Human Resource Officer role to oversee not just Human Resources, but Human + Machine Resources.


of business leaders think expanding the role is necessary.

Schlumberger, an oilfield services company, uses AI algorithms and advanced analytics to improve operations—including video analysis of people working—to improve work processes. The company informs employees and provides benefits in return. It also anonymizes and aggregates video data, giving individuals the choice to opt-in to privately see their own productivity data so that they can improve their performance.

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How decoding organizational DNA can unlock value in the digital workplace.

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India findings - Infographic

Key highlights from Indian companies.

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Ellyn J. Shook
Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, Accenture
Mark A. Knickrehm
Group Chief Executive, Accenture Strategy
Eva Sage-Gavin
Senior Managing Director, Talent and Organization, Accenture
Susan Cantrell
Project Lead, Talent & Organization, Accenture

About the Authors

Ellyn Shook

Chief Leadership & Human
Resources Officer, Accenture


Ellyn is responsible for helping Accenture’s 469,000 people succeed both professionally and personally. Her global team of HR leaders and experts is reimagining leadership and talent practices—including innovative uses of technology to unlock people’s potential—to create the most truly human work environment in the digital age.

These help fuel Accenture’s differentiation in the market and ability to improve the way the world works and lives. She frequently advises clients who seek to learn from the large-scale talent transformation she’s led within Accenture.

A member of Accenture’s Global Management Committee and Investment Committee, Ellyn is a strong advocate for inclusion and diversity. She serves on the board of trustees at Harvey Mudd College, the Women's Leadership Board of the Women and Public Policy program at Harvard's Kennedy School, and the steering committee of Paradigm for Parity.

She is active in Women in America and Ellevate Women’s Network, and is also a member of the HR50 division of World50. A 2015 article in named Ellyn one of the top 10 CHROs. She is a recognized thought leader, author and a frequent speaker on the topics of future workforce and inclusion and diversity.

Ellyn holds a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University.

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Mark Knickrehm

Group Chief Executive,
Accenture Strategy


Mark leads teams that focus on solving clients’ most pressing challenges at the intersection of business, technology and operations—helping C-suite executives develop strategies to transform their organizations.

He is a thought leader on how emerging trends and technologies will impact industry and business models, especially around digital disruption, competitiveness, and future workforce in a digital world. His recent work examines the role of trust in the digital age and its impact on business performance.

Mark is also a member of Accenture's Global Management Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. He is currently based in Los Angeles, after spending three years living and working in Asia.

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Senior Managing Director,
Talent and Organization, Accenture

Eva leads teams that help Accenture’s clients harness digital technologies and evolve their workforces to innovate, unlock new sources of value and “lead in the new.”

She brings three decades of experience in Fortune 500 companies to help organizations put in place the skills and talent strategies that strengthen business agility and resilience. Her teams deliver strategies that enable CEOs to navigate disruption at a time of intense competition and volatility.

Eva plays a pivotal role in shaping the practice’s market strategy, including offerings and investments. Eva held senior positions in a range of global consumer, technology and retail corporations. She was the first female member of multiple public technology company boards and is the former co-chair of the Bay Area chapter of the Women Corporate Directors organization. She is executive-in-residence at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a guest lecturer at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. Eva was also the former Vice Chair of Skills for America's Future at the Aspen Institute.

Eva holds a bachelor's degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University.

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