This is a two-part blog on the topic of volunteering and the benefits you and your company receive when employees spend work time on volunteer efforts.
In this second installment, I’d like to discuss the fine line when it comes to sharing information. How do you know what information to share with a volunteer group? It’s something I struggled with when I first started and I know others struggle too, since they’ve asked for advice.
Deciding What to Share
You have a lot of knowledge about your industry, clients, and company—maybe even competitors too. When you’re working in a committee or on a project, how do you know what to share? Aren’t you giving away your company’s intellectual property if you share information? And staying silent isn’t an option, since the group wants your contribution. So, how do you maintain your company’s upper hand with its information, while still contributing something to the group?
Think through the goal of the committee or task. It’s rarely to copy something that is already out there. A best practice committee works to create a product that identifies the best of what is out there, from multiple providers. It recognizes that Company A does one piece one way while Company B does another piece another way, and in the end, each company’s process combined make a great resource. It doesn’t all come from one company—it’s the strength of the community. There was probably some famous Spock quote about the sum of the parts is greater than the individuals, but I can’t remember it now.
Here are some things I use to determine what to share or what not to share.
We’ll start with the easy stuff first.
What Not to Share:
- Confidential Company Information – This includes the specifics of how your company does business. You do not want to share the exact mechanism of how you do something from start to finish. You do not want to share the details of a recent lawsuit. (There are some caveats to sharing legal incidents covered in the next section.)
- Company Financials; Company Problems
- Client Names or Client Lists
- Prospect Names or Prospect Lists
- All the Details of What Makes Your Company Special (i.e. the extra special widget that only your company has)
What to Share:
- Pieces of Procedures – For example, you should not share your entire consumer disclosure process from start to finish, but you could share one piece, if that’s a topic of discussion. For example, if the group is discussing how to authenticate an individual from outside the U.S., and you are aware of alternative examples, you could bring those up. If your company uses an authentication method that is proprietary, then it may not be appropriate to bring up the details.
- Pieces of Lists – Here is a good example. One of my life long projects is a list of CRAs I’ve found worldwide. I’ve been working on this since 2004. So far, I’ve identified 1,624 companies, of which 667 are outside the U.S., representing 82 countries. There are a lot of folks who are clamoring for this list. They don’t get it. Our company uses it for a lot of things. In several instances, I have given pieces of the list for a project. For example, the European Chapter of the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA, formerly NAPBS) is looking to marshal resources for a push to keep the ability to run Basic Criminal Record Certificate searches for appropriate job positions. I filtered out the UK companies from my list and sent it to the UK Chapter. Together, we are now building a contact list for who to reach out to for this project.
- Your Experience – If you’ve found a great resource for something, that’s probably fine to share. I maintain tens of tens of pages of resources from various country regulators that have had something to say about employment screening. I’m happy to provide a specific country’s links to someone who is not a client. They won’t get the whole list until they are a client. But sure, I’ll help you out with the link to the Bulgarian Data Protection Authority’s article on screening. It’s in English too! I’ve shared things that worked and also didn’t work with groups. A lot of this is based on my own personal experience. As long as I’m not giving away confidential information, then I feel comfortable doing so.
What about a fine line?
There are going to be times when it simply isn’t clear if you should share information. In that case, the best course of action is to not share it. If in doubt, do not put your company at risk. If you have the luxury, speak to someone else in your company. Use them as a sounding board. Or check with the legal department.
The easy answer is to always say, “nope, don’t share.” But you never know when that nugget of information will be the key to something important for our industry or our clients or their candidates. And that can ultimately result in more revenue at your door. Think of the U.S. Government Relations Committee. If those individuals hadn’t shown up on certain doors, we may have less identifiers now than we dreamed we could have. When you benefit the community, you benefit yourself.
|Kerstin Bagus – Director, Global Initiatives|
Kerstin Bagus supports ClearStar’s Global Screening Program as its Director of Global Initiatives. She has more than 30 years of background screening industry experience, working for a variety of firms, large and small. Kerstin is one of the few individuals in the industry who is privacy-certified through the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) for Canada, the EU, and the U.S.
Kerstin is a passionate participant in the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA, formerly NAPBS) and is a current member of the Board, in addition to participating on several committees. She also participates on IFDAT’s Legal Committee, with a primary focus on global data privacy.
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