The BBC couldn’t really have picked a worse time to accidentally send an email to all their staff filled with not-so-positive comments about Vanessa Feltz.
Meant for a select few, the email contained details of Feltz’s annual review, allegedly reading “When we launched Vanessa’s breakfast programme, we were aware we would have to find the right balance between her skills and the much tighter format.
“We reduced the number of stories (fewer, bigger, better) and tried to create more time for her personality and interaction, but it still felt constricted and lacking personality.”
Shortly after the email was sent, the culprit sent out another mass email asking employees to delete the former without opening it. This rule was obviously not obeyed by everyone, as the information was leaked within the day.
Importantly, it raises concerns about the privacy of performance & development within companies. Although there are no direct laws protecting employees’ privacy regarding reviews, it is considered HR best practice to keep it between employees, their line managers and HR personnel. It is very important that staff privacy is safe-guarded, because the result of an accident like this one could be hugely damaging – especially for the BBC who are very much at the forefront of the public eye currently.
What can we learn?
Safe-guarding the privacy of employees has always been important, and when something like this happens it brings about a general awareness of a problem that still exists; managers who don't take privacy seriously end up damaging the employee’s as well as the company’s reputation.
When companies are sharing private information over email, they need to be aware of the risks of a seemingly harmless mistake like hitting a wrong button. There are better, more secure ways to store your information and companies the size of the BBC should be employing them – more and more businesses are moving their employee data into the Cloud, a secure and robust means of storing data such as reviews and development plans.
Another thing we can all learn is that being in the public eye means enforcing policies and making sure everyone is remaining as compliant as they possibly can be; especially during those times there is no room for risk of a mistake like this one!
In general, though, compliance associated with HR legislation should be pretty high on our list no matter what the circumstances are, and I think we can all look to the BBC for an example of what not to do moving forward.
There are loads of ways to keep an employee’s data safe in the digital age; software systems are just one of many. We should be taking advantage of the digital revolution and avoid making tiny mistakes that could end up hurting our reputations and ruining our relationships with employees, which are becoming so vital to maintain.
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