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Perspectives

Ethical technology in the workforce

Not just for big tech

Whether or not you’re a “big tech” company, all organizations have the power to advance the responsible and ethical use of technology. That’s why we’re making a coordinated effort to prioritize ethical technology practices in our work and workforce. We’re also sharing our experience to help shed some light on what it can take, what often works, and what’s expected next.

Why prioritize ethical technology in the workforce?

Technology involves subjective decisions, and the ways we create and use it can impact real people’s lives. And because every company is a technology company at its core, we all should make ourselves aware of tech’s potential harms—and take positive action to avoid them.

While there isn’t a standard road map for implementing technology ethics, by cultivating a tech-savvy and purpose-driven enterprise, you can help set a standard of trust, responsibility, and continuous learning in your workforce. Your people are the foundation on which you can build an ethical tech organization. The following considerations are based on Deloitte’s pillars of building an ethical technology workforce:

  1. Setting the foundation:
    Ethical technology is like a team sport: While it needs champions and leaders, it is at its heart a shared responsibility that requires broad collaboration across an enterprise. Having a tech-savvy workforce and purpose-driven enterprise set in the core values of trust and continuous learning can help ground an organization’s people in their collective responsibility to uphold this important effort. They are the foundation on which you can build an ethical tech organization.
  2. Education and engagement:
    Once your people understand the importance of ethics in technology, it’s important to not just help them see their own roles in promoting it, but also to give them the skills to identify, debate, and mitigate ethical tech risks. To give our people a variety of options to learn and engage in the topic, Deloitte developed and deployed resources such as gamified learning, a mobile app, short videos, and podcasts.
  3. Securing the right stakeholders:
    Knowing where the “hot spots” for ethical tech risks lie can help you pinpoint where you should find and cultivate champions for trustworthy and ethical technology. Some organizations have established new leadership roles to drive this focus, such as a “Chief Technology Ethics Officer.” At Deloitte, we entrusted that responsibility to a centralized leader who is empowered to drive an organizationwide approach and strategy with one foot in technology and the other in Deloitte’s Purpose Office—all while emphasizing responsibility for decision-making on specific ethical tech dilemmas among our development and business teams.
  4. Making it real: Process and implementation:
    Have you set expectations that allow your people to execute on an ethical technology program in a consistent manner? Are there standards that everyone knows and expects to satisfy? To help guide our daily work, Deloitte is identifying gates, triggers, and milestones and clarifying who is responsible for enforcing their use. It’s important to regularly assess what decisions have been made, measure results, and determine how to adapt your processes to learn from real-life outcomes.
  5. A journey, not a policy:
    Activating trustworthy and ethical technology typically takes a different form from one organization to another and from one moment to another. Creating and using technology in ways that unleash its promise while avoiding its perils is a goal that most people can understand implicitly. But it’s a practice that will present challenges when you set out to apply it on an institutional scale.

While it’s tempting to look for concrete, enduring solutions, often the most important qualities an organization can bring to their technology ethics evolution are agility and patience. Change takes time. Be patient. Accept missteps as opportunities to learn and adapt. Only then can you create a lasting impact.

Ethical technology isn’t just for big tech

Get in touch

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Catherine Bannister
Retired US Leader
Trustworthy and Ethical Technology
Deloitte LLP

Jessica Sierra
Manager
Trustworthy and Ethical Technology
Deloitte LLP

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