Automation is going to play a central role in the next phase of digital transformation, facilitating deeper personalisation and better employee experiences. But what does this mean for HR? And what pain points does your organisation need to be aware of before starting a HR automation project?
Recent research by Forrester predicts that 2019 will be year that companies become a lot more pragmatic in their approach to the benefits of automation. The report cites “poor data governance” and “technical debt” as two major barriers during 2018, claiming that organisations:
“…underestimated the real work needed to overcome technical debt and poor data governance; some because the sound strategy was to invest in back-office technologies to drive efficiencies; some due to a lack of executive cohesion; and some due to the fear that it would interrupt or destroy quarterly performance.”
Overcoming poor data governance
It’s not surprising that organisations are struggling to realise the benefits of automation. With digitising HR, several factors contribute to poor data governance. Usually, overall accountability and ownership are missing. Departments tend to have ownership over their own systems and data, but often these systems do not talk to one and other. Without a strong data governance strategy, you end up with disparate data sources that are, at best, only partially compatible.
As Peter from Calimere Point mentioned within his guest blog, poor data governance from the outset can place huge constraints on digitising HR.
“Quite often, even large organisations, lack data architecture. They usually have some form of data reporting in place, but they are often pulling this from disparate sources across the business.”
Automation-based HR software solutions are only as good as the data they draw from. So, what does a strong HR data governance strategy look like? Below, we walk through five steps in establishing a robust model.
Step 1: Take a realistic view
We’ve seen an explosion in the use of automation software solutions that integrate with existing HR systems, yet as Peter mentions, “the temptation for HR teams is to run before they can walk”.
The road to using HR automation at an advanced level is very much a progressive one, but there are plenty of quick wins to be made along the way.
The role of HR is to appreciate the value in taking a methodical and realistic approach to automation. Before you start your project, you’ll need to know your current position. Are you still in the conceptual stages bringing together disparate data sources? Or are you ready to make more powerful strategic insights into business performance. To discover this, Silver Cloud HR’s free HRIS Healthcheck is a good place to start.
Step 2: Take HR ownership
HR IT landscapes are often complicated by a lack of investment, limited self-service, and unaudited legacy systems. Therefore, data is disparate, the quality is inconsistent, and access is sporadic. But with digital trust and data-driven functions becoming commonplace, HR needs to take direct ownership.
The role of HR is to ensure people data is deemed to be the source of truth, with all other business systems running from it. You will need to bring this data together. Typically, the data will reside in many locations and in lots of different formats. For the most part, you’ll want to use data analytics tooling to source, load and standardise the data.
Step 3: Establish cross-business buy-in
Assuming you’ve already obtained senior management buy-in, you’ll want to assign broader business ownership. After all, we all know that as data is transferred from one business unit to the next, it almost becomes ‘owned’ by that department.
For larger businesses digitising HR, it’s not uncommon to find ‘Employee Experience’ teams including HR, finance, facilities, IT and Sales. Each brings something different to the automation process.
You’ll need to map out who is accountable for taking ownership over the sources of the data across the business. You’ll also want to identify who has access to the analytics and limit any unnecessary access. This will lead to a much smoother implementation.
The role of HR: Make sure each business department is suitably represented from the start. And be ready for a challenge regarding the value the new system is likely to bring to each department. Explain the lifetime value of the project and how it can enhance each department and the role of the person concerned.
Step 4: Address technical debt
Data and process technology roles in HR are highly specialised. Before starting a project, one of the first things we do for our clients is identify technical HR skills gaps. We consider where those skills might exist in other areas of their business, and how we can directly lessen those gaps.
The role of HR is to make sure you have the relevant and extensive systems knowledge within the team. You’ll need an HR systems manager who has proven experience of your chosen HR software. Remember though, it can be costly and difficult to appoint the right HR systems manager. And if you invest time and money in upskilling an individual, there’s a chance they might leave.
For Silver Cloud HR’s clients, a more agile consultancy approach works. They are allocated a highly experienced HR systems consultant on a contractual basis who oversees the entire project at a vastly reduced cost than employing somebody on a full-time basis.
Step 5: Hire non-HR people
As HR departments become heavily reliant on those who can analyse data and reflect on current processes and assess their effectiveness, they’ll need to think beyond HR.
The role of HR is to make sure there are people in the HR team who are responsible for data quality. Depending on the scope of your project and HR consultancy support, you’ll also need a change management expert and business analyst; which you may need to recruit.
Be decisive on what you want your data to do. Will it be proactively used to make business changes or is it just needed to provide an overview? Once you know this, it’s much easier to know exactly who else needs to be involved and at what stage.