Dealing with the outcome of a siloed organisation and insufficient data is an issue that has exponentially increased during the onset of the current global COVID-19 pandemic.

If a problem is too large, break it down into manageable chunks, right? That’s why business units were created. Different departments allow businesses to build specialised teams that are experts at performing specific functions that move the business forward. Yet we all know too well that this often also results in organisational silos that can lead to disconnects and make it hard to access the whole.

A business and its units at heart are all about the people who work in them, and a well-functioning HR department can improve performance by providing both individual support and building a high-level picture of the needs, capabilities, and structure of your company’s workforce. The challenge of aligning these tasks is highlighted during crisis or sudden organisational changes. To navigate times of uncertainty – and ensure business continuity – HR departments need to have a solid foundation to build on. This foundation is HR master data.

HR can help by giving the business a view on its most important asset - its people.

People, pay, and planning

In times of change, be it growth, organisational restructuring or downsizing, businesses need to handle the process in an efficient and secure way.

When it comes to people joining and leaving your company, HR departments with solid master data have a factual base for understanding what a successful employee journey looks like and how to organise your HCM and the connected processes. They will be able to recruit through digital channels in a smarter way, build succession plans that ensure departments are never short of the personnel they need, and provide valuable guidance when restructuring or layoffs are required.

Important data about your people also provides crucial information in support of other business unit functions. For instance, payroll is a big expense for companies, and being on top of the numbers is key when it comes to going over costs.

Being on top of the reasons behind the numbers will help you make the right decisions when planning and organising your staff.

In a situation like the current global COVID-19 pandemic, real-time data of your people and their availability is a must. Absences, holidays and remote working schedules are important to track in order to be on top of what is happening. On top of better talent planning and resourcing, a solid HR master data set will also help to interpret trends and enable better forecasting.

Supporting your people through uncertain times

In today’s extremely fluid situation, it is even more important than ever before for HR to build new digital processes to connect with employees. A rapid shift to digital channels is essential to maintain an accurate overview. Supporting business operations and business continuity is one obvious benefit of digital HR tools and accurate HR master data, but they will also help you support your people through uncertain times.

In times where the strategy can change fast and you need to regroup, digital tools help you gather the right data to effectively communicate and implement changes and lead your people towards a new direction while simultaneously tracking your progress and adjusting accordingly. Digital HR processes, such as e-signing or digital appraisal tools, not only makes us more efficient: they also support the adoption of remote working practices, which are more vital than ever. Organisations with this type of resilience are the ones likely to succeed.

From a practical perspective, informed HR decisions and recommendations can only be made if you have a complete picture of your employees and clear strategic goals.

Master data should give you insights into the whole palette. An HR master data set based on the right KPIs includes data points that give a better collective understanding of areas that concern the staff as a whole, but also of areas like personal development and individual motivation. If you are strong on competence mapping but weak on individual goal setting, you could be at risk of demotivating people by guiding them onto a development path that supports company strategy but does not positively engage them on a personal level.

Properly-structured HR master data can also act as a window onto a company’s culture, even on a global scale. It can be hard to know if business units and different locations have adopted company-wide culture points, or if HR initiatives are having the right impact. A standardised, automated process for collecting data can give a granular view of teams and locations, as well as a country and company-wide understanding of how much progress is really being made.

With the right HR data and HR KPIs, you will preserve and cherish what makes your organisation unique – your culture.

Tracking HR ROI

Insights such as these help HR professionals track ROI for their initiatives. Having access to HR master data also helps ensure decision making is well-informed and based on accurate data.

In a situation like the current COVID-19 pandemic, the first questions many companies ask are very basic: how many people work for us? Where can all find their contact information? How many are on sick leave or working from home? How do I handle a potential organisational restructuring? An automated process designed to collect and handle employee data in compliance with GDPR, privacy, and employment law requirements will deliver both the right answers but also savings in time, money, and potential future legal costs.

For example, overall efficiency savings of 50-75% have been seen by HR departments adopting fully digital contract creation processes. Digital HR tools will save any organisation a tremendous amount of time – a resource that is sparse when a crisis is at the corner and quick actions are required from HR

Finally

There is no such thing as the perfect Master HR data set, and the rate at which this data changes is now faster than ever before. My suggestion to you is this: build on top of a solid, automated, administrative base. Decide what to track by defining KPIs that help you keep a current view of your company’s most important asset; its people. Measure the impact of your initiatives and keep on learning everything you can about your organisation as you navigate the new normal.

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