My HR data is literally all over the place

My HR data is literally all over the place

Compared to what was available ten years ago, the modern HR and payroll systems available today are like upgrading from a Penny Farthing to a Ferrari. 

But before we discard our Victorian cycling trousers and prepare to pull on a pair of posh leather driving gloves, there’s an issue we need to address. 

Critical business decisions should be based on data. This is true in finance and marketing, where data practices are well matured. 

In HR, business leaders also need quick, easy access to data and reporting tools. But a worryingly large number of organisations are hampered in this because of the way HR data systems are structured, with people data siloed and incompatible. 

Similarly, information on various HR processes such as learning & development is necessarily recorded by different people across several locations. And while it’s undertaken with enthusiasm ranging from ‘begrudging compliance’, to ‘oh, sorry, we forgot again’, different variation and interpretations often creep in. 

Incorrect Data for HR

This leads us to one of the most pressing problems facing HR today, dirty data. That is, missing data, inaccurate data, duplicate data. 

Even with the most basic HR processes, untrustworthy, disparate data takes time to find and verify. Working with bad data makes everything take longer:

  • Appraisal data sits inaccessible on a line manager’s laptop
  • Absence records are held locally but don’t get updated on the central record
  • Critical productivity information is lost or forgotten the moment a project is closed

And the cost of bad data today will compound as we move towards full digitisation. Analytics doesn’t work well with dirty data. After all, you can’t put diesel in a Ferrari. 

What can we do? 

How to get 'clean' HR data

Clean data is a product of a well-designed data system. 

We travelled to Iraq to help an international security firm solve exactly this problem. They’d grown from a small operation to encompass multiple divisions, employing ex-military and police personnel in hostile environments. Each division operated its own system for tracking work, leave and pay, ranging from spreadsheets to whiteboards and Post It Notes. 

Their ad-hoc approach had worked well in the past, but their growth meant that these systems had begun creating intense headaches for HR and payroll. 

We consolidated their processes into a single data source, integrating workforce-planning, HR and payroll, accessible from anywhere.

But having a centrally located, universally accessible data system is no guarantee local HR teams will use it properly. What saved them hundreds of hours information-chasing, transferring and checking was thoughtful, user-centric system-design. 

Is human error the problem?

Many businesses blame human error for their patchy data, which is right to an extent. If people could be trusted to adhere to complex data practices and manually enter or transfer data with no errors, much of the problem would go away.

People aren’t like that. If human error is a recurring problem in your data gathering, the problem may be the system. A streamlined, accessible, intuitive system, used by people who understand and appreciate its value, should yield comparatively clean, useful data. 

A central HR function needs to collect certain data, but it would be a mistake to limit the scope of any new data system to just that. Ad-hoc systems of whiteboards and spreadsheets grow organically in response to need, and are often effective at ground level, despite the headaches they create further up the information chain. 

Which was why it was so important we travel to Iraq to meet the people who would be using our client’s new system. We had to work out what all the Post It Notes and whiteboards used by regional teams were achieving and ensure that the new data system catered for these local needs in the same way it served central HR’s requirements. 

A new data system isn’t an additional layer of admin that sits alongside the old ways of working. Local HR operatives manually transferring data once a month from a whiteboard to the central database is not a recipe for data integrity. No, the whiteboard must go. The objective being that the new system becomes the one stop shop for all employee data recording.

To find out how our data system experts can help you streamline and optimise your data processes, click here.

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