by Julia Mench

Human resources executives have never seen more diverse, innovative technologies that support all aspects of an HR department.

The cloud is helping app developers push the innovative envelope and rapidly bring new HR solutions to market. But the biggest challenge isn’t which technology to adopt; it’s the quality and relevancy of the data that powers these solutions.

Organizations can put the coolest, easy-to-use, agile HR app in place, but if bad, irrelevant or out-of-date data supplies that technology, then they fail on both fronts. Ultimately this translates into little to no return on investment on the new technology, and the HR executive receives inconsistent, inaccurate results to drive their corporate strategy.

While other industries have long relied on the knowledge and skills of data scientists, the world of HR has only recently begun leveraging their talents.

Whether HR executives decide to stay the course with an older HR management system or rip and replace entirely, they have a rare chance to get their data right and provide long-term strategic worth for their department and the overall business.

How do they accomplish this? Through the establishment of accurate data sets and proper governance processes, senior HR professionals can ensure data accuracy as the paramount outcome for informed decision-making.

Establish One Source of ‘Truth’

Whether HR systems have been in place for more than a decade, ever-changing because of an acquisition or because a company is introducing the newest app into its technology mix, different systems inevitably need to share and synchronize data with each other. One system may deal with recruiting while another holds enterprise resource planning information; these systems may be housed in differing geographic locations so information is updated at different times.

HR executives must establish one global source of HR “truth” to get an accurate and complete picture of the organization’s human assets. As data latency issues often occur with multiple systems, it is best to set up a universal information layer that captures the data at the same point in time on a regular basis — ideally on a nightly basis. This practice optimizes recruiting and workforce decisions by ensuring that executives have access to consolidated, current HR data every day.

While other industries have long relied on the knowledge and skills of data scientists, the world of HR has only recently begun leveraging their talents. Not only do they have access to hundreds of the latest analytics tools, but they understand the HR marketplace and can return meaningful reporting data on the most pivotal issues driving HR success.

Data scientists can quickly produce sophisticated reports ranging from head count analysis to sales performance statistics and companywide benefits comparisons. They can also support recruiting efforts by helping to build profiles based on the most successful people at the organization who are currently in roles that need to be expanded. This type of exercise can provide valuable visibility into existing resources as well as potentially help HR executives identify opportunities for promotion from within their organization. HR data scientists can also help organizations examine and improve the quality of their baseline HR data.

Get Going With Governance

The responsibility of managing changing HR data can be overwhelming without a proper governance structure in place. Well-defined data-ownership roles, responsibilities for managing the data and workflows are vital.

This includes designating data stewards who are well-versed in the organization’s data environment and who understand the implemented technologies that can help identify and resolve issues quickly. HR leaders should also set up and automate a proper data error routing process so the right people automatically receive an email when errors pop up and can quickly correct them. Ideally, organizations should arrange for all HR data to synch up on a nightly basis to ensure that errors can be corrected immediately before affecting other areas downstream, e.g., payroll.

New technology offerings often promise significant cost reduction and operational efficiencies, but HR executives must ensure the long-term integrity of their HR data to harness the power of these tools. Getting a proper data governance strategy and resources in place can substantially help HR teams get a leg up in leveraging technology to make sound business decisions for their overall organizations.

Julia Mench is senior vice president of human capital management solutions at BackOffice Associates. She has been a risk partner at the company since 2002 and founded the HR data migration practice. Comment below or email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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