Understanding GDPR is a Key Skill
to Master in the Modern Workplace

See also: Confidentiality

As more businesses embrace digitisation, data privacy has become a crucial concern for customers, stakeholders and employees alike. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is just one notable example of how lawmakers and policymakers are trying to uphold collective data integrity and for, some businesses, compliance may seem more like a tick-box exercise, rather than being a key skill for employees and business leaders to develop.

However, as organizations scale into a more predominantly digital terrain, the threat from online attacks grows, and with it a greater need for cyber awareness among colleagues. Additionally, a business-wide understanding of data compliance and protection is a strategic asset that is vital for safeguarding their cyber security and their online reputation. In terms of its value, a knowledge of GDPR is as vital as having a talented and aligned workforce of employees with a balance of technical, creative and soft skills.

The Value of Data Protection

Understanding the value of data protection and why it is an important component of today’s modern workplace is crucial. In fact, with more and more people using online channels in an office or remote setting to communicate and record data between colleagues, clients and external partners, it is more vital than ever to learn how to comply with GDPR.

Employees and leaders across industries need sound knowledge of GDPR compliance in order to safeguard their staff’s personal privacy and protect the entire organization’s sensitive data across digital platforms. It's important to keep up-to-date with data protection developments and have internal policies in place to train employees and develop their capacity to take on data protection responsibilities and liabilities.

With many stories of fraud and identity theft often making the rounds, businesses that demonstrate transparency about data handling and an unwavering commitment to data protection are more likely to attract and retain business contacts. From a skills development perspective, this means instructing employees on how to comply with GDPR rules while record-keeping and when sharing or handling personal information.

Common Compliance Risks in the Workplace

Many business professionals associate GDPR measures with website consent prompts, popups and privacy notices, many of which sometimes feel unnecessarily intrusive or tedious. However, they serve a vital purpose, particularly when you consider that businesses are obligated to be transparent about their compliance - a lack of transparency can lead to fines and penalties.

GDPR compliance risks may seem unlikely provided you accept terms when prompted, but many of them extend beyond the obvious and overt. For example, an employee’s role change or termination can pose a security risk if data access privileges are not adequately managed or revoked. Similarly, as more remote and hybrid-working employees opt to buy used computers and mobile devices to save money or curb e-waste, security threats will continue to rise. In fact, recent data showed that 70% of people bought and sold used electronics in 2023 alone. However, if these devices are not appropriately wiped and cleaned of old data, they present data privacy risks and vulnerabilities if data is shared across organizations’ digital platforms.

As more businesses deploy software and solutions in their quest to expand, third-party integrations are becoming more commonplace. If they do not exercise due diligence on the stability and security of new platforms, it could expose compliance gaps or open their incumbent systems to a broader range of cyber attacks.

Fostering a Culture of Data Ethics and Integrity

Employees are invariably the weakest link when upholding data privacy, often being the first method of compromise in a cyber attack or data breach. This frequently stems from knowledge or training gaps in an organization, with some employees failing to exercise proper data protection etiquette and cyber hygiene. Therefore, investing in regular compliance and cyber security training will be an excellent first step in fostering a culture of enhanced awareness.

Documenting critical assets, implementing strict access controls for shared systems and data, and revoking or reducing privileges when roles change, are also essential. However, the most effective step is to empower and educate employees on how to be proactive and vigilant about all potential data exploitation points.

As technology continues to evolve, new challenges and opportunities arise as far as data privacy and integrity are concerned. Emerging trends like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) introduce complexities in data collection, processing, and storage. Organizations must stay one step ahead by regularly reviewing their skills development measures, their privacy policies and procedures, particularly when integrating innovative new solutions like generative AI chatbots and automated document or identity verification software.

Another crucial component in fostering a more data-aware business culture requires robust cyber security measures, including secure firewalls, encrypted connections, robust backup processes, and enterprise-wide endpoint protection together with incident response procedures. The cyber threat landscape has evolved to unprecedented heights in 2024, which is why companies must adapt their infrastructure to secure all sensitive data from malicious actors while upholding strict GDPR standards.

Career Prospects in the Data Privacy Space

It’s no secret that GDPR data privacy and compliance has become increasingly important today. This has, bilaterally, created an increased demand for skilled professionals with expertise in data preservation and cyber security, the latter of which has an alarmingly high skills gap proving particularly hard to close. Nonetheless, data protection officers, compliance managers, security analysts, and other similar roles offer promising and lucrative career paths for individuals interested in the complex and evolving data privacy space. It’s expected that this demand is likely to continue and grow even higher in the coming years.

While achieving and maintaining GDPR compliance can seem challenging, it is an essential investment for companies operating in today's data-driven world. Whether employees are eager to increase their soft skills or improve their communication skills alongside their cyber security knowledge, they must have the space, resources, and support to do so within an organization.

Prioritizing data security allows companies to mitigate more legal, financial and cyber risks but also gain a competitive advantage by fostering trust and credibility with their customers. Cyber security and GDPR skills should be front of mind when reviewing and optimizing your data compliance processes. If you need any information on learning more about any skills mentioned in this article, and are interested in developing your professional skill set, contact us today.

About the Author

Dakota Murphey is a writer based in Brighton, specialising in management training, HR and effective talent acquisition. Having authored pieces for numerous online and print magazines, Dakota has undertaken independent studies to discover how managerial styles and practices can positively impact business productivity.