Data, data, where is the data?

One of the most important lessons is the critical nature of data and information in enabling the strategic HR organization. The critical need for HR to have access to data and information that is both timely and relevant to the challenges facing different business units. Among the reasons why human capital data and information play such a central role are the following:

Without accurate and reliable human capital data and information, strategic HR professionals cannot make fact based decisions that provide insights to their business clients For HR to contribute to higher value issues facing their business units, such as performance and talent management and workforce development, they need to assess the current situation, develop business cases and provide recommendations that can withstand the scrutiny of the larger organization. To accomplish this, they need access to data and information that have the same level of timeliness and validity as those provided to their counterparts in marketing and finance. Further, HR professionals need to be comfortable that their data is consistent with the data used by their peers in other functional areas to avoid the need to revisit their assumptions and recommendations.

HR professionals need data to assess the effectiveness of their own work .HR employees must evaluate two aspects of human capital programs: the effectiveness of design, as well as the execution of those programs. For example, a company that has adjusted to flexible working hours needs to understand what types of questions employees are asking about the program, along with whether the program is having an impact on retention rates of target employee groups. Without either comprehensive case management data from a shared services environment or the ability to produce trend analyses for different employee groups, the HR staff has little ability to go beyond anecdotal evidence – upon which the HR function has long been accused of relying too heavily in its decision making process.

Providing self-service capabilities can enable employees and managers to more easily address their own questions

HR professionals are not the only ones who need access to reliable HR data and information. Employees and managers need the capability to answer their own questions regarding basic issues such as payroll, expenses, benefits, vacation, performance ratings and the like.

Providing this data and information in an easy-to-use format that is accessible without the assistance of HR professionals enables individuals to quickly obtain answers to routine questions and update changes in their own profiles in a timely manner. Without this self-service capability, HR professionals are frequently bombarded with questions that take away from their time and ability to perform more valuable work.

Overall, the strategic HR professional needs to have access to, and the ability to use, human capital data and information. Much as the Chief Financial Officer depends on a company’s cash flow, income statement and balance sheet to make decisions about the financial assets, the strategic HR organization needs the same level of quality information to provide guidance on managing the firm’s human assets.

However, while many in the Finance organization already have the analytic inclination and experience to transform information into insight, the HR organization, as we will see in the next section, often faces a shortfall in the number of individuals with this key capability.