Third of Gen Y workers would trade social media access for job security

18 August 2014 -


Large chunk of younger employees would open personal data to bosses if it helped to shore up their positions, finds PwC

Jermaine Haughton

A significant proportion of workers would allow managers to access their social media accounts and other online personal data if it would boost their job security, according to a new report published today by PwC. The trend has emerged in step with an emerging dominance of Generation Y in the workplace, which is set to consolidate in the coming years. 

PwC’s The Future of Work: A Journey to 2022 study surveyed 10,000 workers and 500 HR professionals around the world. The findings indicated that bosses are looking to use personal data from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to understand what motivates their workforces, why people move jobs and how employee wellbeing could be improved.

On the basis of the responses, the younger generation is more open to sharing personal data with employees – with 36% of Generation Y workers saying they would be happy to do so.

By 2020, Generation Y is set to count for half of the global workforce – and employers are looking to capitalise upon the greater openness to technology and personal information by creating data profiling for their companies similar to those used in marketing.

PwC workforce analytics leader Anthony Bruce explained: “Just as advertisers and retailers are using data from customers’ online and social media activity to tailor their shopping experience, organisations could soon start using workers’ personal data (with their permission) to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues. This sort of data profiling could also extend to real-time monitoring of employees’ health, with proactive health guidance to help reduce sick leave.”

Key to organisations’ ability to successfully use employees’ data, Bruce said, would be the development of “measurable benefits” for those who hand over access, and “building trust through clear rules about how data is acquired, used and shared.”

According to the report, technology will be the biggest factor to change the nature of the workforce over the next decade, ahead of shifts in demographics, the economy and availability of resources. More than half (58%) of HR professionals said that they are actively preparing for this shift, while a quarter said they were already prepared.

Bruce added: “Our research reveals that employees are more open to sharing their personal data than previously thought. The millennial generation of workers are particularly happy to share their data, meaning this kind of data monitoring by organisations could become routine in the years to come. HR teams are already gearing up for these changes and are increasingly using data analytics to spot retention and performance issues. The main challenge for organisations will be convincing employees that the price of handing over their data and monitoring is one worth paying.”

While the convergence of technological advances with the growth of an entire working generation may be ideal for employers who are trying to know more about their employees, 12% of workers say they are worried about the impact it will have on their jobs (eg, whether it will get them sacked).

Lancaster University Professor Cary Cooper – a leading expert in organisational psychology and health – added some concerns of his own in conversation with the Guardian. “First of all,” he said, “it is naive to think that if you trade off your privacy rights (eg, access to one’s social media) that an employer can ever guarantee job security. Second, I can't see [why], if an employer had access to an employee's social media, how this could possibly lead to greater employee motivation or wellbeing. This seems a plain case of trying to find out what employees are doing and thinking – clearly an intrusion into their private life. I see no HR justification for it whatsoever.”

Find out more about PwC’s report.

For further details on the issues raised in this article, check out the details on CMI’s Young Managers Group meeting, set to take place in London on 9 September.

Image of social media icons courtesy of Twin Design / Shutterstock

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