HR Data Quality – Sparking an Interest

By Craig Mackie – Consultant.

Did you know that there are 15 operational nuclear reactors in the UK? 11 retired stations, most of them generating units, have been with us for around 27 years on average. Every ten years or so they are thoroughly inspected to make sure they can continue operating for another 10 years.

If you work in London and regularly commute by train either from Cardiff, Bristol or Swindon, you will inevitably come to a stop at a place called Didcot. The train stops here to pick up more commuters and anyone else heading for the big smog, to see friends, family or the sights.

Before they were demolished in 2014, one sight which may have been firmly imprinted into your memory would have been three large chimney stacks in the Didcot area, officially named the ‘hyperbolic cooling towers’!

Built in the 1960’s, apparently glider pilots loved them because it offered them free altitude hot air boosts.  The towers mostly burnt coal and natural gas, and some of the ash produced was manufactured into breeze blocks. A group of Greenpeace volunteers once invaded the plant and chained themselves to one of the conveyor belts. Those that were not afraid of heights even scaled one of the chimney towers and set up a ‘climate camp’!


Now onto serious matters, like where did I get these facts from, or what source provided this data?  Can I rely on this data to be accurate?

These types of questions you probably ask yourself or your colleagues when you require the latest HR reports or a set of workforce statistics. They spark conversations about trust. Trust that the content is accurate, trust that information quality is not costing the business, and trust that we are doing a good job on data governance and are miles ahead of our competitors!

I was having a rather long conversation (2 days to be precise), with a HR team at a large energy provider. They are embarking on a HR data quality project to look at 3 key areas:

  • Confidence in Data
  • Security & Data Protection
  • Manual Interventions carried out by staff

Whilst I was helping them analyse their SAP HR Data, it became apparent that the data was in good shape. There were a few improvements needed here and there, but overall the data gave them the confidence to say ‘these reports are accurate, you can trust what we are providing you with can help you to make better decisions’.  So a tick in the box for the first bullet point!

Whilst I was sat finishing up my data extract, one of the team had to pop out for a business meeting for an hour; he immediately locked his laptop, the infamous Control-Alt-Del and went on his way. I guess I am from an external company and could have easily accessed their sensitive HR data, so another tick in the box for the second bullet point!

You can’t get away from certain manual tasks such as processing new hires or employment changes. You can only automate as much as you can, or find a solution or product from a vendor. But inevitably, just sometimes, the manual way is the best way. We didn’t find much in the way to improve some manual interventions, so final tick in the box for the last bullet point!

What were the outcomes? Well after analysing the SAP HR Data, it was agreed that the data was fit for purpose: it allowed the team to run reports and feel more confident.  The team have the skills and knowledge to provide reporting solutions for their business communities and are looking at smarter ways of reducing the different types of employee queries that come through. They can now prepare business users with better knowledge of data standards and what is required from them. More importantly, the HR team can now take this successful project onto the next level, by looking at governance and data quality for the whole business, rather than working in silos.

So, next time you’re on that train London bound past Didcot, looking up where those famous chimney stacks used to stand, think about your new found knowledge; enthusiastic Greenpeace campaigners scaling the chimneys, or adrenalin junkies that loved to fly above them, and perhaps share this with the person next to you on the train.

I will be posting more blogs in future around data, processes and governance. More importantly I’ll share with you my experiences and viewpoints from organisations themselves.

For more information, feel free to post a message below or get in touch.

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