We’re all familiar with the so-called law of unintended consequences – the warning that intervening in a complex system tends to generate unanticipated and unwanted consequences. And, interestingly, for something that isn’t actually a law, it very often applied to the law itself. Take the infamous Volstead Act, for example, which introduced Prohibition to the USA. Originally designed to create a better society by removing the so-called evils of alcohol consumption, it instead made criminals out of millions of ordinary citizens and handed a vast amount of wealth and power over to such delightful characters as Al Capone and his cronies.

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) have been created with the laudable aim of giving individuals better control over their personal data in response to the ever more sophisticated data gathering and exploitation capabilities of such all-pervasive giants as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple. And they have come with some real teeth in order to deliver results. But when they come into force in May next year there does seem a real worry that they could also have unforeseen and undesirable consequences for the executive search sector, with individuals in effect ‘disappearing’ from view and, consequently, for the career development of executives and professionals around the globe. Better, of course, than tommy-gun battles in the high street and people being dropped in rivers with concrete around their feet, but concerning nonetheless.

Many of the legal professionals who have taken an interest in this area, as well as representatives of the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK and their counterparts in other EU countries have sought to stem any tendency to panic about the new regulations. As they suggest, the regulators are not idiots nor operating in an ivory tower and are therefore likely to try to balance the rights of individuals with the needs of business. 

The best way to deal with GDPR, therefore, appears to be to adopt sensible, prudent measures, which will, not only bring a high degree of protection from censure, but also allow both search specialists and individuals to actually benefit from its introduction by developing more professional, synergistic and long-lasting relationships. That’s why we’ve introduced GatedTalent, a private platform for consistent information sharing with selected recruitment partners – in effect, as the name suggests, a global database of effectively ‘gated talent’. Its aim is to both help search firms remain compliant and to allow professionals and executives to select trusted partners and add them to their established roster of long-term advisors such as lawyers, accountants and the like.

For more information on the potential effects of GDPR on executive career development read our latest research report Unintended Consequences – Why GDPR could move executive careers into the slow lane around the globe (linked) or register now on GatedTalent.