Full Disclosure: The case for conflict of interest disclosure

By Gerry Crispin posted 02-27-2024 12:04 PM


"A conflict of interest occurs when an individual's personal interests – family, friendships, financial, or social factors – could compromise his or her judgment, decisions, or actions in the workplace. Perceiving a conflict of interest does not make it a conflict of interest. The true test of verifying whether a matter is just a potentially perceived conflict of interest, or an actual conflict of interest, is disclosure." - University of Central Florida, Understanding Conflict of Interest, UFC Ethics Newsletter, April, 2016

Over the last two decades, the amount of investment in HR Technology and Services has escalated to an extraordinary degree. In a direct correlation, advisory boards; steering committees; sponsored white papers, specialized directories, subsidized events and much more have also increased along with the rewards associated with them. In fact, industry connections and relationships have grown to a point where, we believe, it is impossible to ignore the real, perceived and potential of undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Basic common sense disclosure standards are clearly absent or, in large measure, ignored in our industry. The light of transparency is needed.

Here at CXR, we go out of our way to advise our community members that their understanding of a solution’s price, quality, ongoing support and claims should be thoroughly researched and - as much as possible - done so directly from their colleagues who are using the products and services not just the firms, analysts, consultants, influencers, academics and other experts engaged in the pursuit of their livelihood. Even then, some think our stance on Conflict of Interest is a bit over the top. If so, that's done intentionally. We [CXR] in no way sit on for-profit boards or have stock in products and services our members use and we’ve never been paid to represent a product. We work hard to make that very clear.

There’s a time & a place for these advisory relationships

Don't misunderstand, we fully accept our industry colleagues who are paid to play, who do invest, advise and who proudly refer practitioners to solutions they believe in…as long as they fully disclose those relationships. We equally believe that there are negative consequences ahead if our industry doesn’t collectively set and promote a few reasonable standards for these relationships sooner than later. The threat is real.

On this subject, Alex Murphy [JobSync] recently pointed me to a fabulous post by Ernest Ng, PhD, VP Strategy, Research & Content at Hired Score: “What Matters Now: Embracing the New Era of Disclosures for All HR Technology Stakeholders” This article served as a tipping point for us. Ernest calls out the dark hole we have been digging in our industry by providing links to a few current standards, growing guidelines and stricter legislation that are all redefining expectations about how Conflicts of Interest Disclosure is evolving. Ernest, in noting the importance of disclosure to preserving trust, sees four areas of focus: 

  1. Employer Disclosures with Candidates/Employees
  2. Solution Provider Disclosures to the Buyer
  3. Organizational Disclosures to the Government
  4. Industry Analyst Disclosures with Consumers

We might argue for a fifth: Candidate Disclosures to Employers. I suspect many would believe this fifth focus is already in place, but I think there are new considerations as we examine the rise of fractional and contingent labor contracts and the rise of 'influencers' in any number of industries.

Interested in the topic? Let’s come together as a Community

We already have a few hardy souls from our Talent Acquisition and Solutions Communities with a passion for this subject. Together we expect to have a series of three to four conversations on conflicts of interest disclosure this Spring. Our goal: collectively develop clear recommendations for ourselves and others and, with the help of public comment, publish them.

Interested in joining this conversation? Let us know.


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