Enabling Technology

Digging Deep into HR’s Data

How to get the right numbers to raise HR’s strategic profile
By Julia Mench
Chief people officers and HR directors have historically played a critical role in organizations’ recruiting and internal HR efforts. Despite this role, they rarely found themselves
at the corporate strategy table, especially during extensive, data-driven innovation conversations.
Often recruiting efforts and information on active talent pools have been isolated from internal HR data regarding current employees. However, as a watershed of new HR technologies and cloud computing options now offer the ability to quickly synthesize HR data, unearth pervasive HR errors, and provide sophisticated analytics, HR leaders now have a unique opportunity to prove their long-term strategic worth.
By ensuring consistently accurate, up-to-date HR data sets and establishing proper governance processes, senior HR professionals can use this chance to measurably improve their organizations’ overall operations and profitability— solidifying their seat at the executive table. As HR system challenges and investments look different for each organization, the key is getting the right roadmap in place to ensure data accuracy as the paramount outcome for informed decision making.
Juggling Multiple (and Dated) HR Systems
Organizations facing mergers, acquisitions, or divestitures often grapple with the issue of multiple HR systems coming together. Their leadership team may not have the stomach or budget for an HR management system overhaul, and there is a good chance that some of the inherited systems are more than a decade old with few—if any—updates since the original implementation. These systems clearly lack the benefits of newer agile solutions and do not always communicate well with other systems, not to mention likely contain dated elements such as old recruiting portals that don’t cater to the needs of today’s millennial hiring pools.
In this scenario, the HR team’s best bet is to focus on cleansing the comprehensive data sets and aligning the overall organization under a global data and governance strategy that accurately represents the organization’s human assets. Bringing this vision to fruition requires utilizing technology to eliminate data latency issues globally and establishing an information layer that captures a view of the consolidated HR data at the same point in time on a regular basis. While many organizations sync their HR data on a monthly or quarterly basis, it should be done nightly
as a best practice. This frequency not only ensures that headcount and payroll numbers are consistent throughout the organization but also helps HR leaders possess meaningful information available at their fingertips to make timely decisions regarding recruiting candidates as well as internal staffing needs or issues. This level of visibility also gives the HR team the ability to quickly assess data errors by level of complexity and route them individually to the right staff in a timely manner for quick resolution.
Using Data Scientists to Supercharge
Companies that have one or more consolidated systems with an information layer favor some investment in their current setup versus a rip-and-replace scenario. These organizations must first ensure that their data is accessible, relevant, timely, and completely constructed, but also could benefit from bringing data scientists onboard—a newer concept in the world of HR. While many HR leaders have significant data skills, HR data scientists’ core expertise involves boiling a company’s ocean of HR-specific data and employing sophisticated analytics and tools to produce findings that empower HR teams to drive more strategic workforce and high-value recruiting initiatives.
For example, HR may be recruiting new highly productive sales representatives according to industry standards and benchmarks. This is great, but there is also a wealth of untapped recruiting data sitting within their current high performing sales reps as the culture of their workforce lies in that valuable data. Data scientists can help by studying the attributes of the organization’s most successful sales reps—including their background, previous employment, qualifications, education, etc.—and determine an accurate profile of what a productive sales rep at their organization looks like. There may be opportunities identified for promotion from within. Significant time and money can be saved through a data-driven, targeted recruiting effort.
Taking it to the Cloud
Some organizations have decided to toss their existing ERP system and fully migrate to cloud-based HR systems instead. While the cloud offers key benefits such as flexibility and
a quick migration, data-related considerations should be addressed before proceeding forward. For example, the rapid implementation process often lacks a discussion on business process strategy and usually relies on the customer to handle the actual data migration. HR directors pursuing a cloud strategy should start on the right foot by prioritizing data quality during the migration and ensuring that the new data setup meaningfully aligns with their organization’s business processes.
Also some cloud apps offer a la carte implementation options such as only selecting recruitment or workforce planning solutions. This option may work well for organizations that are interested in a phased approach to HR-focused cloud adoption. However, HR leaders should take additional governance steps to establish quality data sets in both original and cloud systems at all times. They should also take the time to evaluate prior HR systems’ custom data fields to ensure proper data classification within the new cloud solutions.
Data can be one of the most powerful assets for chief people officers and other HR leaders looking to optimize their workforces and ultimately help their organizations drive superior revenues. To harness the power of data, HR leaders must first ensure correct, up-to-date data within their technology systems—whether legacy on-premise systems or cloud-based apps—as well as leverage HR data scientists and analytics tools. Taking these progressive steps, the HR team can successfully innovate and raise HR initiatives into overall corporate strategy.
Julia Mench is senior vice president of human capital management solutions at BackOffice Associates.

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