Can We Put Ethics on a Formula?
How do you ensure a high level of commitment from employees contributing with highly sensitive data, keep them anonymous, and present that data to the management in the best way?
"The Digital Ethics Compass is an action-oriented and helpful tool. It has become a frame of reference that has given us a common language and some common models for incorporating ethics into the design of Howdy products. For us, continuing to use this tool makes sense"
After several workshops, the tool the Digital Ethics Compass now provides a fixed frame of reference for Danish tech company Howdy’s continued development of digital solutions to improve wellbeing in Danish workplaces – while protecting highly sensitive user data.
The Results: A shared understanding of ethics
Even after only working with the Digital Ethics Compass for a short period of time, Howdy has seen tangible results. They’ve:
- Developed a shared language to talk about ethics
- Increased their focus on specific ethical dilemmas in their digital solution
- Commenced a number of initiatives to enhance the user experience
Now, they’re confident that the tool will be a permanent part of the company’s future.
The Challenge: Ensuring commitment and anonymity
The typical process in the digital world involves putting data in one end and pulling it out at the other end. But when it comes to ethical questions, it’s not black and white. It’s not that simple to put ethics on a formula. A big challenge for Howdy is how the data on employee wellbeing is presented to the management of a company while ensuring that employees remain anonymous and committed to contributing with highly sensitive data on sleep, motivation, and energy levels.
"At Howdy, we have a great and important focus on user engagement. We want our users to monitor their well-being continuously, but we also want to give them something in return for their data"
The Approach: It’s all about digital ethics
Howdy participated in a course with the Digital Ethics Compass which was facilitated by our project design partner, the design agency 1508. The two-day workshop allowed a broad circle of Howdy’s employees to work on very specific issues, which they continue working with after the workshop. Among many topics, Howdy has examined how data is displayed over time, as well as how data is visualized for both the individual employee and the management.
“In terms of the tasks we have ahead of us in our development work, it was healthy for us to shed light on this issue. Courses like these tend to fade into obscurity once the workshop is over, so the best safety test is to observe what happens afterward. As part of our ongoing business development, we have already set up an internal workshop to explore these topics further,” says Rasmus Hartung, CEO at Howdy.
We developed the Digital Ethics Compass in collaboration with digital strategist Peter Svarre, three design partners – the agencies 1508, Charlie Tango, and Acceleration (previously Flip.Studio) – and three front-runner companies: Corti, Holo, and Danske Bank. Throughout the process, we had an advisory board to discuss with and set direction.
After the initial version of the tool was developed, we invited nine Danish SMEs to work with the tool during a number of workshops facilitated by one of the design partners. Based on the feedback on those workshops, we adjusted the tool further and launched the final version of the Digital Ethics Compass in December 2021.
You can try it right here and always reach out to us if you’re interested in a workshop or tailored course – both in Danish and English.
“I was definitely surprised by how great it was. Also, it was a pleasure to sit with the material in hand: It is tangible and can be taken with you and continue to work with it subsequently”
Howdy is a Danish company, that provides its customers with insight into both employee and organizational wellbeing. Through their digital tool, they monitor users’ mental and physical wellbeing. It provides employers and users with insight and an opportunity for conversation and reflection, which in return can initiate proactive measures with the aim of increasing mental health and reducing physical pain and discomfort for the users.
About the Digital Ethics Compass
In collaboration with digital strategist Peter Svarre, we initiated the project with the support of the Industry Foundation. We invited design agencies to facilitate learning courses with nine Danish SMEs. The digital design agency 1508 facilitated the process with Howdy.
The Digital Ethics Compass is sponsored by DI – Danish Industry. The aim is to create a national initiative that guides and encourages all companies to actively take a position on how they relate to topics like data, technology, and user involvement.
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