This week, the General Data Protection Regulations will have been in force for a year. This time back in 2017 we were all experiencing an onslaught of emails and texts from companies begging us not to leave them, desperate to be able to still hold on to our precious data. For many there was a lot of confusion and understandably some real concern about what lay ahead. Lists of things to ensure compliance seemed to be never-ending and GDPR was the theme of every workshop, meeting and webinar.
So, looking back one year on, what did we learn from this experience and what difference has it really made to data-rich businesses like ours?
Data, what is it good for?
Well quite a lot really, especially in a business like ours where not only do we hold data about our customers (clients), our actual “product” is pretty much all data too. CVs, passports, bank details, payslips; you name it, everything around us was data!
So, yes, data is vital to our business but up to date, relevant and accurate data is what really makes the difference. It can be easy to just look at the amount of data you have and be reassured by that, be comforted by a large database or a long mailing list but if it’s old, cold, out of date, inaccurate or there’s no real customer connection behind it then my answer changes, the data isn’t worth much and can even get in the way.
It can be scary to let go of data and if you’ve seen my desk you’ll know that I’m not naturally someone who likes to let go of things. I’m very much of the “it’ll be handy one day” mindset. So you can imagine my comfort-levels throughout one of the biggest projects for our business, our database cleanse. Not only would we be auditing and then running an initial major cleanse we would now have a more rigorous monthly cleanse which would ensure our database stayed up to date and GDPR compliant but also could potentially be much smaller.
The first Monday after our initial cleanse (the BIG one) was a nervous morning for me. Would our team now struggle? Would it prove harder to deliver quickly and effectively for our clients? What impact would it have on our sales activity? Would we lose our ability to compete? In short the answers were no, no, none and no. In fact the feedback (and we took plenty of it) was positive. It was easier for our consultants, everything was up to date, processes were quicker and easier to run, targeted correspondence was easier to manage and our increased communication encouraged many candidates to update details with us and re-engage with our team every month.
Another benefit has been in seeing real, genuine growth in our database. Despite a significant increase in the number of records destroyed each month we see net growth in the numbers of registered candidates and client contacts. It’s a much more meaningful and ultimately useful measure to have in place.
Our recruiters have always relied heavily on our database, it’s the core of our operational business but taking a step back, looking at what is there, how we use it, how we make sure those valued contacts and the information we’ve learned about them are not lost has made us all the more vigilant. It’s made us even more conscious of the things we always knew, such as the need to be more engaged with our customers, that we need to be actively and consistently growing our network and that we need to really value and use the data we hold effectively.
So, is it a happy anniversary for GDPR at Escape? In the main, I have to say yes. Yes, there was a lot of time and financial investment made by our business and change is always unsettling but as is so often the case, this change has made us stop and take a fresh look at a core part of our business and ultimately, the changes we have made have benefited us, our clients and our candidates, not a bad outcome after all.