GDPR – The Perfect Time to Refresh Your Database

As executive search firms grapple with the complexities of GDPR, many are concerned that the new regulation will mean deleting thousands of records built up over many years. Surely there must be an alternative?

October 16, 2017 – Not Actively Looking can help firms to maximize the value of the legacy database and create a dynamic asset that is accurate, refreshed and fully compliant with the new regulation. All of this at no cost to the firm!

Rather than seeing GDPR as a threat, firms should see this an opportunity to refresh and revitalize old and inaccurate information.

The situation today

The database is central to everything that happens at an executive search firm. This is where the firm stores information about the core activities of the business: clients, industry contacts, assignments, candidates and potential candidates. Over the years firms have amassed vast quantities of information. In reality, of course, much of that information is old and inaccurate. Many will privately acknowledge that the proportion of records that are partial or out-of-date may be as high as 80 or even 90%. This suggests that, despite the vast amounts of money being spent on maintaining the database, much of the information it contains may be of very limited value.

Implications of GDPR for the search firm database

Executive search firms all over Europe (as well as global firms) are beginning to understand the changes that the industry will be forced to adopt when GDPR comes into effect in May 2018. Whilst there may be a risk of huge potential fines or reputational damage for any firm that is found to be in breach of GDPR, the introduction of new regulations should be seen as an opportunity to improve the professionalism of the industry as well as improving the usability and value of the search firm database.

Under GDPR, search firms must be clear about their reasons for holding personal information, whether that be “legitimate purpose” or explicit consent. There are also certain requirements on consent and transparency. If an individual asks to see what information is being held, for example, firms need to be able to share that information with the data subject and give that person the opportunity to review that information, ask for it to be amended or ask for it to be deleted. Search firms have an explicit obligation under GDPR to ensure that the information they hold on individuals is accurate and up-to-date.

Why does it matter if the information is accurate and up-to-date?

This matters because if a search firm relies on the information they hold to assess a potential candidate’s suitability for a particular role, then the accuracy of that information may be critical in deciding whether or not the candidate is put forward. Inaccurate information could mean somebody not getting a shot at the role that they deserve and that could result in the search firm being found to be in breach of GDPR and, hence, open to huge financial penalties.

What are the options?

Each firm will need to develop a policy for obtaining and keeping information in future, as well as a policy for the legacy database. Recently received CVs and records that are linked to current assignments won’t be such a problem. The database, however, is likely to include thousands of records where there is no record of when or why that information was obtained and no record of the individual’s consent, as well as thousands of records that have not been updated for several years.  In that situation, search firms need to decide what they are going to do with the out-of-date information:

  1. Do you delete thousands of potentially valuable records that have been built up over several years? Or
  2. Is there some way of refreshing that information and renewing the contact?

Deleting thousands and thousands of records, potentially most of the records on the database, is too terrifying to contemplate. Fortunately, there is an alternative.

The Not Actively Looking solution

Not Actively Looking have built a platform where senior executives can share confidential information with selected search firms. 180 top-level search firms have signed up to the new platform. Unlike public networking sites, Not Actively Looking is discreet, exclusive to the top-end executive search community, free to search firms, and not available to either low-level recruiters or to the client companies of search firms.

Search firms who join the Not Actively Looking platform have the option to create and manage a Private Database that is exclusively visible to that firm. Some firms have chosen to transfer all of their records to a Private Database on Not Actively Looking. Others are looking at this simply as a way of managing the older, inaccurate records.

Once the records have been copied to the Private Database (they do not need to be deleted from the old database at this stage), Not Actively Looking will work with the firm to sift out the people who cannot be reached and then to contact the remainder. Individuals will then be given the option to view the information that is held, and invited to update their own records.  In this way the self-managed profiles will be refreshed and maintained by the executives themselves, thereby creating a valuable database of information that is not only up-to-date, but also fully compliant with GDPR.

What is the upside of GDPR for search firms?

GDPR is a great opportunity for search firms to show that they take data privacy and data security seriously. It should also be the catalyst that prompts firms to renew and refresh their database. GDPR isn’t just good news for data privacy; it’s also good news for the quality and value of information available to search firms.

To find out more get in touch with the team at Not Actively Looking and find out what they can do for you.


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