Is Collecting the Data Taking Too Long? Here’s Help

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Dec 16, 2016

While many aspirational HR leaders look to mature their strategies to include a variety of workforce and talent analytics, the majority of HR teams remain challenged with tactical and operational reporting requirements. Although a handful of showcase organizations have moved to one fully integrated enterprise suite, with HR, payroll, talent and financials all on a common platform, most are still dependent on a variety of disparate systems; this makes even ordinary reporting tasks a regular headache.

Self-service data preparation is the cure.

What is data prep?

Data prep is the process of collecting, cleaning and consolidating data into one file or data table for reporting and analysis. This generally entails correcting any errors – typically from human and/or machine input – filling in nulls and incomplete data, and merging data from several, disparate sources or data formats. Most commonly, these tasks are performed manually, which is incredibly time-consuming and tedious at best. In fact, it’s been estimated that data scientists typically spend up to 80% of their time manually preparing data.

This age-old, yet pressing problem, has given rise to self-service data prep software that enables users to easily and rapidly acquire, manipulate, blend and prepare data from virtually any source, without being tech savvy or depending on the IT department. Data can be prepared for analysis with these tools in a fraction of the time that it takes using spreadsheets and other manually-intensive measures. And, this means more time can be spent on performing analysis that yields actionable business insights.

While there are numerous use cases for self-service data prep, reporting is an area where software tools can substantially alleviate pain for HR leaders and pros. Here are five examples of how data prep can make an immediate impact in your department:

1. Headcount reports – Why is it so hard to know how many employees you have at any one time? Something that seems so simple for small companies can be a nightmare for large enterprises. Especially for companies with multiple systems (typically due to mergers, acquisitions, or localization requirements). The simple task of identifying total headcount often involves several people and hours of time to collect the data, put in Excel, and create pivot tables.

Despite the fact that headcount numbers often change, sometimes on a daily basis, the process of gathering this data is the same. A self-service data prep tool can automate this process by creating a model of each step, including accessing the required datasets and all of the steps needed to normalize that data, into a consistent file that can be used in Excel, a database, a data visualization tool or a business information platform.

2. Compliance reports – As you know, submitting compliance reports are standard practice for HR departments large or small. Regardless of whether they are prepared annually or initiated by an incident/event; accessing the necessary data is not easy. The reports and audits for ACA, OFCCP, OSHA, 401k, FMLA etc., all require details often housed in multiple locations. Making matters worse is the fact that those details may be contained within documents and enterprise reports that need to be reconciled, extracted and often manually input.

With self-service data prep tools, the semi-structured data within reports and even PDF documents can be automatically captured, extracted and viewed for reconciliation, analysis and reporting. Your compliance data is readily available electronically, for fast, easy and consistent reporting.

3. Skills and certification reports – Keeping tabs on your employees’ skills and certifications status is critical for both operations managers and HR. In addition to compliance risks, maintaining employees’ practical knowledge of industry standards impacts service quality, brand credibility and customer satisfaction. For HR to analyze gaps in training, skills and certifications across employees requires data from HR systems, learning management systems, performance management systems and more. With a self-service data preparation tool, HR can easily pull in data from virtually any data source and join/blend them together into a comprehensive view for analysis, visualization or reporting.

Continuing education credits, license or registration information, membership status, onboarding and compliance training, progression training and internal and external learning courses, even background verification and skill assessments, can be easily aggregated and joined into a common format, and exported to Excel or any BI or analytics tool.

4. Pay equity reporting – While reports like your EEO-1, must be filed annually, ad hoc status checks are often prepared to help identify areas of concern that may need to be addressed. HR is often tasked to review issues like pay equity in advance of management or board meetings. These ad hoc reports may involve analyzing pay rates across a number of variables – gender, race, position/role, tenure, management vs non-management, exempt vs non-exempt, payroll market analysis, metro-region/markets, etc.

Self-service data prep enables HR to access all necessary data, regardless of the source or format, and prepare it for analysis. From matching similar roles and functions, to normalizing currencies, HR can avoid lengthy wait-times from IT requests, complex scripting and time consuming data manipulation tasks in Excel.

5. Workforce planning, talent pipeline and age band reporting – As HR teams strive to be more proactive in their talent acquisition initiatives, on-going analysis of employee ages, tenure and flight risk becomes critical to ensure adequate staffing levels. Stronger economic climates, competition for talent, an aging workforce, and high turnover rates require on-going reporting and analysis.

Empowering HR to stay ahead of staffing requirements requires access to a wide range of aggregate employee data regarding potential retirements, skillsets, succession needs, workforce planning, open requisitions vs talent pipelines, time-to-fill, employee engagement scores and more. Self-service data prep tools not only provide easy access to data, but also built-in data governance features such as data lineage, data masking and access controls that ensure operational compliance, security and trust in your corporate data.

Enabling workforce analytics

With constant reporting requirements for compliance and strategic planning, HR needs a better way to access, manipulate, blend, govern and automate data preparation tasks. Self-service data prep can empower you and your team to increase productivity, obtain better, faster insights from employee data, and reduce compliance risk – and it enables workforce analytics strategies.