In Search of Consistency and a Common Language
The goal of any organization is to have the right people in the right place at the right time, and be able to account for the cost. But that goal is elusive without people data standards that have been agreed to by HR, IT, and the enterprise.
Consider the case of a California-based consumer loan division of a large financial services institution that planned to consolidate several business units. The initial financial report to the CFO showed the units spent $85 million in salaries during the previous year. Yet, a subsequent audit revealed the salary total to be substantially more—$180 million. The problem? The two units had different definitions of what constituted “salaries,” with one definition excluding bonuses and payments to temporary workers and contractors.
Hidden pockets of people data, as in the example, thwart successful decision-making. But the impact goes deeper. For instance, incomplete or inaccurate people data hinders the ability to make informed decisions about workforce planning, and it can complicate or prevent the use of efficiency technologies like SaaS and Cloud for payroll processing.
The Basics of Data Simplicity
Most companies maintain data in similar ways. A majority of information is held in corporate systems, a lesser amount resides at the divisional level, and residual key facts are stored at the line manager level. This creates tension between the top and bottom of the organization. Moreover, many important decisions are made at the center where the data may be the least accurate.
To address people data problems, you need to simplify and streamline your body of information to create a ‘system of record’ that is integrated throughout the organization and kept up to date. Whether your company is a complex global corporation or a small regional enterprise, there are four basic requirements for accomplishing the task:
- Develop Consistent Standards. Having global definitions for key data elements is a baseline requirement for information transparency. Job titles, for example, must mean the same thing across divisions and geographies. This will facilitate the use of employee self-service and manager self-service processes since the entry values will be the same across the board.
- Address the Need for Flexibility. Global data helps drive the organization’s strategy and is essential for top-line needs like group reporting. Such data must be standardized and managed centrally. But divisions and groups on the ground need to be able to adapt some types of data for local reporting needs. You need to define the boundaries between global and local data in your organization and patrol the border.
To address people data problems, you need to simplify and streamline your body of information to create a ‘system of record’ that is integrated throughout the organization and kept up to date.
- Eliminate Data Duplication: Data duplication results when users inadvertently create data fields that have ambiguous or overlapping meanings. Sometimes such duplication is deliberate in order to create special reports. Each data field in your people data should have a clear and consistent meaning and represent a single state or event. Structured codes, sometimes called ‘intelligent’ codes, should be avoided.
- Provide all users with some automated integration. Core systems must be linked to provide reliable people data to all users. Your HR systems, for instance, must be automatically integrated with other key systems such as payroll. Key automated worker feeds should start with security, email, and directory applications.