HR Data Labs – Season 1 – Episode 15 – John Sumser – Ethics in HR Analytics

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This episode is different from many in the past… we explore what are ethics and how ethics apply to HR and People Analytics. We examine this with John Sumser, one of the most brilliant minds in the world of Human Resources.

I hope you enjoy this episode and I am looking forward to your input and feedback.

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Human Resources ethics are complex, so how do we navigate ethics in the world of people analytics? John Sumser is a principal analyst for HRExaminer, an independent analyst firm covering HR Technology and the intersection of people, tech, and work. John’s mix of experience over the course of his career gives him a broad and unique perspective on the industry. John’s work includes deep research into the nooks and crannies of HR Technology to identify and explain rapidly evolving trends and reviews in ethics. 

Let’s dive into today’s topic as John teaches us the ins and outs of ethics within people analytics and how we apply them.

[00:01 – 03:22] Opening Segment

  • Let’s get to know John Sumser
  • John gives some background on himself

[03:23 – 15:28] What is Ethics 

  • John shares the meaning behind ethics and how it relates to HR 
  • The tailoring example – Privacy vs. Fit
  • Understanding your audience as a channel – how tech comes into play

[15:29 – 29:43] The Application of Ethics in HR

  • John talks about the difference in ethics from when we started 
  • Allowing exceptions to policies
  • Navigating the ‘right thing’ at a given moment
  • The application of compensation

[29:44 – 33:47] The Risks of People Analytics

  • How people in analytics can deal with ethics 
  • Measurement vs. meaning
  • How regulation into play 

[33:48 – 40:10] Closing Segment

  • Summarizing our discussion today
  • Final Words

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “Ethics is the continuing search for the answer to the question, ‘what’s the right thing to do?’” – John Sumser
  • “Policies appear to be black and white, but people aren’t.” – John Sumser 
  • “The greatest HR practitioners know how to navigate those tricky boundaries…” – John Sumser
  • “Just because you can measure something… it doesn’t mean that you know what the consequences of releasing that measurement into the wild is.” – John Sumser

Connect with John on LinkedIn and Twitter. Visit to learn more.


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This show is brought to you by Turetsky Consulting LLC, our company providing business consulting on Analytics, HR Processes, and Rewards with a focus on getting answers that organizations need by demystifying People Analytics.  

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