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HR data issues caused by lack of customization in HR systems

As more HR systems move to the cloud, organizations may be unable to customize certain features to ensure accurate data capture. This can cause reporting errors or poor decision-making.

HR vendors today make implementing their tools easier by limiting the amount of customization possible, but this may lead to HR data issues. In the past, on-premise applications allowed you to customize the forms used to capture data and tailor the experience to your needs.

Today, many HR tools are in the cloud and limit what you can customize, which may lead to fields or picklists being available and used when you'd prefer they were not. With the data captured, others who believe the data is relevant may rely on it in reports and analytics.

It's important to understand how your forms can lead to HR data issues, what impact it can have and how you can address it.

The following items may cause employees in your organization to capture incorrect or inapplicable HR data:

1. Fields that are not needed: There may be fields in your HR application that do not apply to your company, but there's either no easy way to remove them or they can't be removed at all. This can be a text box, checkbox or picklist, and it may apply to any HR module, such as core HR, performance management and learning.

Having these fields available can lead to wasted time on many fronts:

  • You will have to document which fields should be used and which should not.
  • Despite the documentation, some employees will spend time trying to determine what data to enter into the fields.
  • Employees may incorrectly enter data into the fields, especially employees who are new to the system.
  • You will likely have people try to use the data in reports or analytics.
  • Employees may spend time trying to fix the data when they see it on reports, even though it should not have been captured in the first place.

2. Picklists with irrelevant selections: Some systems come with predetermined picklist items that cannot be edited. A field on your employment application form might have wording that is used in other countries but not your own, or it may have missing items that are commonly used where you live. An example would be the name given to educational credentials earned after completing a program. You may see the option for Associate's Degree, which is common in the U.S. but not in other countries.

In situations where the picklist presents options that are not applicable, you have a couple options. You can tell users to avoid the field if it is not capturing critical information. Or, if some of the picklist items are applicable, you can specify in your instruction manual what options should be used and which should be avoided.

3. Picklists with out-of-date selections: You may need to edit or remove picklist items from your forms. You may have set up the employee status picklist with the option of Full-Time but determine that you need Full-Time Permanent and Full-Time Temporary. Because the initial picklist item Full-Time has already been used, you shouldn't rename it because it will affect multiple existing records in your HR management system (HRMS), including terminated employees. Depending on the application, you may be unable to rename it because it has already been used.

To meet your needs, you can create the two new statuses and end-date the previous one (Full-Time) so that only the valid picklist items are displayed. Unfortunately, the option to end-date picklist items is not always available. In this case, your picklist now has the old status and the two new statuses, which can lead to incorrect HR data in your HRMS.

4. Fields used for a different purpose: If you run into a situation where you can't add a field to a form but an unused field exists, you may decide to repurpose it for another use. While this can work, it's important to document this exception and ensure anyone using your data understands how the field is being used. When the label of the field does not match the data being captured, it can lead to incorrect HR data being entered.

5. Help system: The help system provided by many vendors is a great place to start when learning how to use a new feature in an HRMS. However, you must remember that they are providing generic instructions to a wide variety of users. The explanation provided may not align with how the functionality is used within your organization. If this is the case, you may capture the wrong HR data.

Impact on your organization

The risk of capturing data that is not accurate or useful for your organization can have several negative impacts on your HR data and company. First, if the forms used by your organization have some of the issues described above, there is a strong likelihood that they will be used incorrectly. Second, once used, the HR data may look correct and, therefore, be incorporated into your reports and analytics. Third, if these reports are relied upon, poor decisions may be made. Finally, you will have to dedicate time to training employees and cleaning your data on a regular basis to correct invalid data.

It's also important to consider how many people have access to the forms. If it's a select group of HR employees who are responsible for entering employee data, they will learn which fields to use and which ones to skip. However, if the form is used by all employees or external candidates, then the odds of having poor HR data increases.

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