As HR analysts, we face the challenge of harnessing data to produce reports on everything from short-term incentive plans, benefits, hiring and compensation, to external auditing and compliance requests.
Compiling this data is not always simple, since it’s often trapped in disparate systems and file formats. The old-fashioned, but prevalent, cut, paste and reformat method in spreadsheets is time-consuming, and painful. And, even after making sure the information is accurate, complete and formatted correctly, we still don’t always have time to analyze the data to fully understand “the narrative.”
At Berkshire Bank, we tackled this problem by using a self-service data preparation software. As a previous TLNT article explained:
“Data preparation 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.”
This can take hours even for simple reports.
Now, armed with our new software (we chose Datawatch Monarch, but there are many others), we’re able to acquire HR data from virtually any source, in any format, in just a few clicks of the mouse, and blend, enrich and prepare it in (literally) minutes. It can best be described as a “life hack” for HR reporting and analysis.
Here are three ways data prep software is making daily work life easier for our HR department:
1. Eliminates manual data entry and reconciliation
Today, our HR department manages more than 1,300 employees. Over the years, we deployed several disparate HR systems to support the institution’s growth. As a result, documents and data pertaining to employees is essentially “locked away” in various formats and systems.
We are tasked with accessing and reconciling information from multiple vendors/systems, and various Excel spreadsheets; before using self-service data prep software, this was arduous at best. In fact, it seemed like we were grappling with black holes as we gathered, reformatted and fact-checked information from each source.
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With data prep software, our repetitive reporting processes have been automated — what used to take four or more hours (accessing, blending, reconciling and preparing data), now takes only five minutes!
2. Speeds up data cleansing, reporting and analysis
As mentioned, we used to spend exorbitant amounts of time gathering HR data from each system, and hours more cutting and pasting information among different spreadsheets or manually entering data from non-spreadsheet sources. Then the process of cleaning, transforming and combining data in spreadsheets would take hours — making it quite difficult to ensure accurate, effective and timely reporting. Using the software, we’re able to automate prep tasks, streamline reporting and quickly pinpoint minute details as well as extend analysis to broader data sets (which have essentially come directly from the source) to obtain a more timely, accurate representation of HR-related information.
Furthermore, not only is the time savings remarkable, we can also effortlessly drop prepared data into a visualization tool for faster, more meaningful analysis. Now, we are able to actually identify “the story” living in the data.
3. It’s a utility
Realizing what self-service data prep can do for the bank’s HR department is a continual journey. In just a few short weeks after employing Monarch for reconciliation of short-term incentive plan reporting, we found many more uses for the solution. In the time saved by the availability of prepared data, we have been able to identify an opportunity to start creating regularly updated detailed turnover, talent management and compensation dashboards and charts for better, visual reporting to senior management.
If you are tired of performing the mundane, time-consuming data management and reporting tasks that plague the HR workday (and want to recoup time for more meaningful analysis that can inform HR and business decision making), self-service data preparation software just might be the work life hack for you too!