The Legal and Ethical Implications of Human Capital Analytics: A Case Study on Danish MNCs

Mette Skov Møller & Rasmus Christensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Companies as well as governments have in the latest years seen an expansion in the field of datadriven decision making, spurring conversations around the use of data and especially the protection of individuals’ data privacy, among other things leading to the comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation, introduced to the EU in 2018. A growing sub-section of data-driven decision making is the field of Human Capital Analytics, a field in which companies use data to conduct analyses about their employees. Since this discipline is still rather new and developing, this thesis will explore the legal and ethical implications of conducting such analyses about employees.
The research is conducted in the context of the multinational corporation, as companies of this type operate across different institutional frameworks, and thus different legal and ethical structures. Specifically, the thesis investigates five Danish-based multinational corporations, namely Arla, Vestas, Ørsted, Carlsberg and Grundfos. Through a multi-case study, based on interview data from experts of the respective companies, the thesis explores how they think about and act upon the legal and ethical implications of their human capital analytics projects. This is done based on a theoretical framework, which outlines expectations for how projects of different maturity will approach the legal and ethical aspects, as well asthe expected organisational responsesto these aspects of the companies.
The thesis finds that the Danish multinational corporations think about and act upon both the legal and ethical implications, solidifying the need for further investigation into this area. It furthermore finds that out of the two aspects, the companies are generally more attentive towards the legal implications of the projects than the ethical. This also means that they are more resistant towards compliance with ethical pressures, whereas the consequences of non-compliance with the legal frameworks, such as the GDPR, mean that the imposed legislation is followed. Moreover, the thesis finds that the investigated companies generally do not think that their human capital analytics projects have a potential to harm their employees, wherefore the communication around the projects is based upon information rather than dialogue or education. The thesis suggests that further research is to be done within the field to explore the legal and ethical implications in a larger number of companies as well as exploring how employees experience the use of their data

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages108
SupervisorsDana Minbaeva