Jennifer Morris, Business Disability Forum Consultant, highlights the importance of trust and psychological safety in employee data collection.
In April 2021, Business Disability Forum published a research report about collecting global employee disability data (sponsored by HSBC). In talking to numerous global organisations for this research, we came to understand all the logistics and legalities they needed to consider. We also learned that there is a risk of forgetting the most important thing: at the end of the day, the decision to share personal data is up to the individual.
Amongst all the challenges research participants identified with the collection of global disability data, the top two related to lack of employee willingness to share their information. In essence, if colleagues don’t know why you are collecting information about them and what you are going to do with it, they will be reluctant to share.
This highlights the profound importance of an organisational culture of trust and psychological safety, for people to share their identities without fear of detriment.
The leaders of an organisation have a vital role to play, and executive support was named as the #1 enabler for data collection by research respondents. Leaders can role model the behaviours that foster safety and trust; they can position disability inclusion as something that impacts everyone; and they can be clear about zero-tolerance of disability discrimination.
Fundamentally, the request to employees for their disability ‘data’ is actually an invitation to individuals to be open about their identities and share their lived experiences with their employer and colleagues…and in order to do that, trust and psychological safety are key.