I am asked to meet a new member of the HR team as part of his induction. Jason has come from one of our competitors and he will be running our HR information system (HRIS) and managing all the interfaces to the various applications that hang off of it. Great. A fresh pair of eyes on HR data will be well met by me. Now that the system interfaces with payroll, salaries are accurate, but all the other reporting data fields are consistently wrong. When we come to complete salary surveys, it is clear the data on perquisites and some other benefits are a work of pure fiction. HR data has been a mess in every organisation I have known. Let’s face it, if someone had natural data skills, they would not be likely to choose human resources as a career, so good data is rarely a priority.
Greater data consistency
Personally, I think HRIS should run more audit reports and do more centrally to drive for greater data consistency. Jason will have his work cut out already because his predecessor left in mysterious circumstances. Some say he was on the fiddle, others that it was just a domestic issue which had nothing to do with the organisation. The leaving record says nothing at all, which just makes it all the more curious. That said, about half of the reasons for leaving are blank and the rest are inaccurate. It is no wonder we cannot do anything fancy with our people data.
HRIS people are a certain type, don’t you think? They have to be technical, so they have that particular pedantic approach to things that you get from IT people. He has come prepared for our meeting. He does not mess with any social chitchat but launches straight into question one on what appears to be a very long list in front of him.
I cannot tell you what he said but it involved ‘objects’ and ‘data cubes’ and several three-letter acronyms I’ve never heard of. I ask him to repeat the question. No, it is no good. He could be speaking a foreign language in a particularly local dialect. I have absolutely no idea what he said.
It is time to take charge of the situation. I have a little slide deck that introduces the reward team and gives an overview on the main company benefits. I suggest that we start with that. I am on slide three when he stops me. Look, he says, I heard all that at my interview. Can we get back to my questions? Question two involves ‘hierarchy’ and ‘overlay’. I direct him to the online organisational charts on our internet site. Not organisational hierarchy, he says, rolling his eyes.
I am not the person you need for technical questions, I say firmly. You will need to pick those up with your own team or the IT department. I feel a bit mean saying that; our IT department is not known for helping with technical questions, and his own team currently consists of just one part-timer. Helga is a rather scary woman who does data entry on the few tables that still have to be maintained manually for the headcount pack. Still, Helga knows a whole lot more about the HR data system than I do. I can talk about the parts of the system we use for reward, like the manager interface for merit planning and bonus allocation. I cover the process for auto-enrolment opt-outs, and I show him where this data is held. He shakes his head and rolls his eyes again. I am not sure I’m going to like working with this guy.
I spend a bit more time lobbying for more centralised data auditing, but I can see that is not going down well. I thought local HR own the data, he asks. I want to explain that they do not see it as a priority and someone centrally needs to review it, but James is already working through another set of unintelligible questions. Luckily, my allocated 45 minutes is finally up and James tells me he is due to meet someone from the organisation development (OD) team. I wish him good luck and get on with my day, feeling cheered my OD colleagues will all have to suffer as I have. Later, I hear that James was as rude to everyone on his induction. He even had Helga in tears, which takes some doing.
Consequences of rudeness
Big Bad Boss pings me. Who is this guy James he asks? If James is being rude to Higher Beings, he won’t last beyond his probation. I am particularly concerned because we have a new sales commission planning system project coming up, and although it will be driven by IT, for sure there will be a heavy dependency on good HR data. I ponder what is worse: a key vacancy on the project team, or a problem on the team? At least a vacancy offers hope, though it is a worry that a new person will be up and running in time for the project kick off.
James is gone by the end of the week. I think Big Bad Boss, with a little encouragement, might have expedited matters. Recruitment, in an uncharacteristic burst of efficiency, has produced a short-list of new candidates. Within a week, we have a new contractor Jason, who looks so like James it is a bit confusing, particularly as the names are similar too. Luckily, Jason’s character is altogether more personable and for now at least, he is open to looking at data quality as part of his remit. He speaks slowly and clearly, and he says thank you a lot. I do like that in a work colleague.
Next time… Candid joins a project team.