3 attributes of an efficient and informative HR database

As with any business software, the average HRMS is becoming more and more feature-packed, and potentially more and more useful as a business and strategic aide – that’s how progress works (or should); things get better. However, the real value of all those features rests on the quality of the HR database behind them.

If the information in the system is less than accurate, so are the outputs. The basic characteristics of a good HRMS are the same as any other system: it should be intuitive to use, as foolproof as possible, secure, customizable, user-friendly, etc. But when it comes to the underlying data, it should be accurate, complete, up to date, and aligned with the needs of the organization. With that in mind, the following three issues are critical to an efficient, informative and useful HR database.

1. Data quality and accountability

When setting up the HR database, ensure that the data you input is clean and accurate. Additional checks, parallel running tests with the prior system, and other measures may be time-consuming but are all worth the trouble and will result in the clean efficient database your are striving for.

"the real value of advanced HR technology features rests on the quality of the HR database behind them."

It is equally important to have a rigorous cleansing or ‘purge’ strategy to keep the HR data clean. Data for staff who leave (resignation, dismissal, retirement, end of contract) may need to be retained but should be distinct from that for active employees; access rights should also be rescinded. On a similar note, it is important to avoid generic external user accounts (e.g. for contractors, consultants, etc.). However tempting it is, it’s better to have a unique account for each person and avoid shared passwords, shared access and any data input which, in the event of a security breach or other problem, cannot be traced back to an individual.

2. Engaged database users

With employee self-service (ESS) features coming as standard these days, your users are a key part of maintaining an accurate HR database. The most basic ESS function is the capability for people to update their own records; not so much outsourcing as ‘downsourcing’ the responsibility for HR data quality to the person with the biggest stake in its accuracy, the individual employee. The more value they get from the system, the more likely they are to ensure their data is current.

Recommended reading: HRMS self-service - 6 steps to success

3. Integration with other databases

The chances are, your HR database links to your payroll. However, with HR analytics increasingly in demand, there’s the possibility that data will be used more widely than just ensuring an accurate paycheck. In fact, you employees’ personal data is likely to be combined with time and attendance information, learning and development, performance management, absence and sick leave statistics, customer engagement records, and so on. The benefit is that the bigger the database, the more sophisticated the available insights and uses: anything from real-time workforce scheduling to long-term talent development, succession planning and beyond. But for those insights to be worth printing out, seamless integration and compatibility between HR databases is a priority.

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall