European data protection laws are changing
The new European personal data regulations come into force in 2018 – and SMEs need to start preparing now.
In May next year, the Data Protection Act (DPA) will be replaced by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a framework with greater scope and much tougher punishments for those who fail to comply with new rules around the storage and handling of personal data. While this new framework comes into place as the UK enters the process of uncoupling from the EU, the Great Repeal Act means it it is likely to be converted into British law. The ease and sophistication of data collection means that thousands of SMEs not only collect personal details, but store, move and access them online. Personal data is used in everything from sales to customer relationship management to marketing.
Cybercriminals have been quick to see the opportunity. In 2016, companies in the UK lost more than £1billion to cybercrime. Major data breaches have given criminals access to names, birthdates and addresses and even social security and pension information. Moreover, a recent report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) claims that SMEs are now more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than their large corporate counterparts. Cybercriminals consider SMEs softer targets than their well-defended corporate counterparts. Which is why the GDPR is considered long overdue by many authorities, and ignorance will be no defence for SMEs who fail to comply.
What does GDPR mean for SMEs?
Among many new conditions, one of the biggest changes SMEs will face concerns consent. Under the new regulations, companies must keep a thorough record of how and when an individual gives consent to store and use their personal data. Also consent will mean active agreement. It can no longer be inferred from, say, a pre-ticked box. Companies that control how and why data is processed will have to show a clear audit trail of consent. Individuals also have the right to withdraw consent at any time, easily and swiftly. When somebody does withdraw consent, their details must be permanently erased, and not just deleted from a mailing list. GDPR gives individuals the right to be forgotten. In the event of a data breach, GDPR forces companies to inform relevant authorities within 72 hours, giving full details of the breach and proposals for mitigating its effects.
GDPR forces SMEs to know exactly what personal data they hold and where it is located (whether on PCs, on servers, or in the Cloud), and have procedures in place to ensure its complete removal when a request to do so is made. Monitoring protocols must be able to recognise and act on breaches as soon as they happen, and an incident recovery plan put in place to deal with the repercussions.
Preparing for all this will require a full information audit and, for many companies, a change in culture, which SMEs should start to plan and implement well in advance of the 2018 deadline. Personal data is a key tool for SMEs looking to target and retain customers: GDPR means it must be handled with the utmost care.
Improving employee engagement
Productivity is high on current business agendas, both at a national-level and for individual business leaders. In order to attain good financial results, customer satisfaction and high output, employee engagement needs to be a priority.
What causes employees to become disengaged?
To put the issue of boredom into perspective, UK managers have identified that their employees spend an estimated 5.3 hours a week bored at work. A number that increases significantly within large companies (7.1 hours) and is higher than average in London and the South East (6.4 hours). Low engagement and boredom aren’t just down to quality of work though. Inefficient internal processes could also be a contributing factor. One in three (30 per cent) managers have stated that there are too many meetings during the working day, many of which are poorly executed.
In light of the ongoing skills shortage, stagnation becomes a key issue. Managers said that they believe roles are not interesting enough and that staff often don’t feel challenged (32 per cent) or become disheartened by the lack of diversity that their role offers them (30 per cent).
Signs of a disengaged employee can manifest in the following ways:
- Not hitting targets
Poor performance and consistently missing targets are clear indicators that your employee is not invested in the growth of the business or their own career within the company.
- No initiative
Your employee has little to contribute at team meetings and doesn’t seem willing to generate new ideas or share independent learnings.
- Unhealthy activities
Frequent cigarette breaks, long lunches, and multiple kitchen and bathroom trips are all signs of someone who doesn’t want to be in the office anymore.
- Bad attitude
This includes complaining, not wanting to help others, being anti-social at work and displaying an unwillingness to get involved in company activities.
How to re-engage a disengaged employee
A common misconception is that giving employees a higher salary will help to engage them again, but this is often not the case. Research has shown that employees are 3.2 times more likely to be happy at work when they’re given meaningful, challenging tasks that they find satisfying.
You can reverse employee disengagement by introducing several simple processes and practices at work and within the employee-manager relationship.
Role development via up-skilling and employee training
What are your employee’s long-term career goals? If they feel like you’re willing to help them work towards it, you might find that investment levels go up. Ask them which skills they feel they’d like to improve and address these within the employee’s learning and development plan.
Regular progress meetings
Touching base regularly after goals have been set will provide tangible achievements to keep things feeling diverse and challenging.
Give them work ownership
Research has shown that employees who feel free at work are 2.7 times more likely to be happy. More than half also say that they don’t have enough opportunities to be creative (58 per cent). Allowing employees to become more involved in their own careers gives them the personal investment they’ll need to re-engage with the company they work for.
Show them they are valued
Small signs of appreciation can go a long way in the eyes of a disengaged employee as those employees who feel supported are 67 per cent more engaged than those that felt undervalued.
Understanding how to identify disengaged employees and acting on those observations will help companies attracting and retaining employees, and get the most out of their workforce to overcome the current productivity slump.