HR Data Integration: How To Streamline Your Data

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HR Data Integration: How To Streamline Your Data

As a Human Resources professional or manager, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of apps and cloud-based systems used in your organization. The average HR department has double-digit apps to manage various parts of the business, like sourcing talent, tracking candidates, paying employees, and managing benefit packages. So, how can you avoid data overwhelm and make the most of all these data sources? The solution lies in HR data integration.  

Let’s explore what HR data integration is, why it’s important, and how HR data integration works.  

What is HR data integration?
Why data integration is important for HR
How HR data integration works
Examples of HR data integration

What is HR data integration?

HR data integration and automation centers on combining and aggregating raw data streams from multiple sources, including a Human Resources Information System (HRIS), Applicant Tracking System (ATS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Learning and Management System (LMS), surveys, and more. This enables HR teams to create one single source of truth, simplify their day-to-day processes, reduce data errors, and make accurate data-driven decisions that help meet the organization’s long-term goals.

For example, integrating recruitment and performance data can help HR professionals identify their top recruitment sources, invest more in these streams, and maximize their number of top performers.   

Data integration improves efficiency and productivity and allows HR professionals to focus on more strategic issues that help drive the business forward rather than wasting time on manual, repetitive tasks like double-data entry in multiple HR apps. 

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Why data integration is important for HR

The Importance of Data Integration

1. Accessibility of data

As mentioned, most HR departments rely on multiple apps and systems to record and collect data, which leads to an overwhelming amount of data to sift through and make sense of. This makes it challenging for managers and leaders to gain a clear, accurate picture of the organization and hinders their ability to make informed decisions. 

One of the primary reasons for HR data integration is that it allows the data from multiple apps to be combined and unified in one data warehouse within a company. This makes all data easy to access across departments. 

2. Data silos

HR departments require apps to source, manage their recruitment efforts, manage and pay employees, and more. This number of apps grows each year as organizations replace their legacy systems, merge with various entities, and operate in multiple countries. A Martech report found that an average company with 200-500 employees uses “about 123 software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.”

Although it can be argued that HR software improves productivity and efficiency, using multiple apps leads to data residing in disconnected virtual silos. This means that data cannot easily be compared or analyzed.

HR data integration allows data to be automatically shared between apps, which solves the issue of data silos. 

3. Improve productivity and efficiency

If your HR team currently relies on passing papers between desks or manually entering the same data into several apps every time there’s a new hire or change in employee’s details, this is wasting time that could be spent on business-critical tasks that help achieve organizational goals. 

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HR data integration automatically shares data from one app to another. For example, as soon as a new hire is made in your ATS, all of that employee’s data required for payroll can be automatically sent to your payroll app. This can save hours of manually entering duplicate sets of data into different apps. Plus, real-time integration creates data continuity and means that no one is waiting for data to be entered by another team member so that they can perform their role. 

Depending on your organization’s size, data integration can save as little as a few days of work or as much as several full-time employees’ worth of time each month. This increases the productivity and efficiency of the entire HR team and frees HR professionals to focus on more strategic work that grows the company. 

4. Help identify bad data

A Gartner article reported that organizations believed poor data quality was the cause of annual losses of $15 million. Not all data is good. Bad data can include incorrect information, duplicates, spelling variations, typos, and missing data. This can lead to false assumptions and poor (or late) business decisions. 

Data integration eliminates human error but will only work if clean data is integrated. This allows HR to identify poor-quality data and improve it prior to integration. 

Automating data flows presents accurate patterns and figures, which enables HR professionals and leaders to make informed decisions that they are confident in. 

5. Increases security

HR data integration reduces the number of people needing to deal with employee records and therefore lowers the number of people exposed to confidential information, which increases security. 

Plus, the best data integrations don’t store employee data; rather, they securely pass along this data from one place to another and allow it to be accessed when needed. When selecting a data integration tool, make sure you opt for one that securely handles data and is compliant with local and national data protection laws. 

6. Forward-looking analysis and planning

HR is being transformed by analytics, and integrating data from multiple sources enables HR to better analyze and plan. Most HR teams record and store employee data, but this is insufficient in our data-driven economy and agile market. Analytics enables HR to make better, data-driven decisions, create a business case for HR interventions (and test their effectiveness) and move from being an operational partner to a tactical or strategic partner. 

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To get started with people analytics, you must combine HR data from different systems. For example, imagine you want to measure the impact of employee engagement on financial performance. To do this, you would need to combine your annual engagement survey data with your employee performance data. This would allow you to calculate the true impact of engagement on financial performance in different departments or stores. 

7. Identify trends and causes

Have you ever wondered what the true cause of an increase in employee absenteeism is or the trend of knowledge and skills gaps in your organization? Data integration collates multiple sets of data that would originally be isolated so that you can identify patterns, trends and causes faster than ever before, take action, and mitigate future challenges. 

Being able to analyze the effects of workforce interventions allows HR professionals, managers, and leaders to make better business decisions.

8. Improve candidate & employee experiences

Data integration makes information more accessible to everyone in your organization without requiring manual data conversions or departmental approvals. 

According to Forrester & Google, the primary factor that prevents marketers from having a 360-degree view of their campaigns is the lack of integration of their marketing analytics tools. Even experienced recruiters need specific, accurate data to guide them. Data integration will help improve their recruitment efforts and deliver a more seamless experience to candidates, resulting in more top-quality hires and lower new hire attrition rates.  

Integrated data will also boost the employee experience as it gives them autonomy when completing admin tasks like data entry. It lets them view their data, including performance reviews, pay slips, and allows them to input requests. Plus, streamlined workflows and tasks across different software and departments will let employees see real-time updates of live projects and access contact information for all team members in a couple of clicks. 

9. Create data visualizations 

Typically, a data integration tool will allow HR teams to use any data items to create a tailored dashboard of key metrics, business analytics, and graphics. HR typically works with enormous amounts of data, which is why visualization is key to conveying a clear message to leaders and decision-makers, helping to increase HR’s impact on the organization. 

How HR data integration works

HR data integration typically involves sharing data from one program to another. Any current, manual, or paper workflows can be streamlined with automatic data sharing. As every data storage system differs, the process includes ingestion, cleansing, and unifying of data into a single store. The moment data is entered or updated in one program, it will automatically appear in every connected app, ensuring your data remains consistent and reliable throughout your HR workflow. 

There are many ways to integrate data and types of integrations that can be performed. 

Data warehouse

A data warehouse enables you to integrate multiple data sources into one master database. From here, you can run queries against several data sources, compile complex reports, and analyze, collect and visualize data in a uniform way. 

ETL (Extract, Transform, Load)

ETL refers to the process of sending data from source systems to the data warehouse, where it will then be viewed and used. Most data integration systems use at least one ETL pipeline because it makes the process simpler and faster. 

Data is first extracted from the source system. This data is then transformed to ensure consistency when it reaches its destination. This usually involves changing the format of the data, standardizing values (currencies, time zones, units, etc.), and enriching and validating the data to discard missing values and duplicates. Finally, the tool loads the transformed data to the destination system, which can now be used for analytics and reporting. The ETL process needs to be carried out frequently to ensure data remains up to date. 

Depending on the requirements of an organization, there are different types of ETL tools that can be used:

  • Hand-coding
  • Batch processing tools
  • Open-source tools

Types of integrations 

  • Manual data integration: This requires data managers to manually conduct every phase of data integration.
  • Middleware data integration: Middleware data integration uses a middleware application (software) to move data between sources and the central data repository (a database or cloud data warehouse). 
  • Application-based integration: Software applications find, retrieve, and integrate data by making data from multiple sources and systems compatible.
  • Uniform access integration: Data is left in its original sources but is retrieved from multiple applications and displayed in a uniform manner. 
  • Common storage integration: Data is retrieved and uniformly displayed, but a copy of all the data is made and stored. 

Examples of HR data integration

Example 1

With HR data integration, turnover rates can be combined with recruitment data to determine which hiring sources result in the highest rates of turnover. As you can see in this example, employee referrals have resulted in the largest number of terminations compared to any other hiring sources. 

Example 2

In this example, turnover and management data have been combined to assess and track managers’ performance. The sales staff team has the highest number of terminations, with 534 out of 564 being non-high performers. 

Example 3

In this example, the HR department was struggling to understand what was influencing the retention of their top-performing employees. Ad-hoc reporting made the business too reliant on the IT department. Three years of historical data were loaded along with additional data security requirements. This resulted in savings for the global pharmaceutical firm and ensured access to up-to-date information.

Example 4

A national multi-brand retailer had hundreds of thousands of employee life cycles change every year. A new, secure identity management system ensured strict access control for hundreds of critical systems. Thousands of employees could be processed every day without errors. This saved considerable amounts of time and effort in manually managing and updating identity records. 

Key takeaways

  • Most HR departments rely on multiple apps to manage different parts of the business, which can be overwhelming, difficult to manage, and challenging to make sense of. 
  • Data integration is important for HR because it makes data accessible, eliminates data silos, improves productivity and efficiency, identifies bad data, improves security, helps with future planning and analysis, improves candidate and employee experiences, and helps them create data visualizations. 
  • There are different ways to integrate data, including creating a data warehouse and using the ETL process. Different types of integration can be used depending on the needs of the business. 
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