Tech Insights: How Dirty Data Is Slowing Down Good HR Analytics

All the great new analytics tools work from the assumption that we have clean data.

Even when we just do a simple analysis, such as “employees by location,” we are presuming that all the data has been input, that it is accurate, and there are no duplicates.

As it turns out, much of HR’s data is pretty bad.

This is not really our fault. The data is dirty because it didn’t matter that much before and it takes effort to enter data correctly and keep it up to date.

Just look at your own address book; it probably works well if you are just looking up a contact, but how much information is incomplete, inaccurate or duplicated?

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Here’s what is interesting

  • How bad most HR data really is. It is a bigger problem than we anticipated.
  • How expensive it is to fix. BackOffice Associates says being reactive with respect to data quality costs 7 times as much being proactive.
  • The place to start is by looking at process, not at the data. Joe Essenfeld, CEO of Jibe, says that we if we understand the process (as it is really done, not just as it is supposed to be done) we will have a pretty good idea about where the data is going to be weak. To ensure quality data going forward, Essenfeld stresses that you need a good process and people have to buy into the process.

What is really valuable

  • HR needs to learn data quality processes. This is largely a new discipline for HR and one well worth mastering. Experience in managing data quality will become an attractive line on any HR professional’s CV.
  • Mastering data quality opens the door to effective analytics, and analytics will transform HR much as it has transformed marketing.

The world often operates on the principle of two steps forward and one step back. It is exciting what we can do with analytics, but now we discover that analytics only work with clean data and our data is dirty.

That’s OK, we’ll get there in the end; however, mastering the field of data quality has suddenly become a priority.

Data quality management is not as glamorous as other parts of HR, but it is a good career move.

David Creelman is CEO of Creelman Research. Based mainly in Toronto and partly in Kuala Lumpur, he’s best known for his research on the latest issues in human resources.

He works with think tanks such as Talent Tech Labs (New York), Works Institute (Tokyo), Workforce Institute (Boston) and CRF (London). He’s collaborated with leading academics such as Henry Mintzberg (leadership development), Ed Lawler (“Built to Change”) and John Boudreau (future of work).

His books include The CMO of People: Manage employees like customers with an immersive predictable experience that drives productivity and performance with GrandRound’s CHRO Peter Navin; and Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau (USC) and Ravin Jesuthasan (Willis Towers Watson).

You can connect to Mr. Creelman on LinkedIn