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Does Your People Data Lack Consistency?

Written by David Turetsky

March 5, 2020

Does Your People Data Lack Consistency?

What is an employee?  Does it include part-timers?  Contractors? Gig-workers? Seasonal workers? Directors on your Board?  The answers of these questions have the potential to cause problems; sometimes big problems.  But, who owns these answers?  Where are your data definitions?  When were they last reviewed?

You may not have a published set of data definitions for your people data.  Most organizations don’t have them either.  It is common for us to continue to have data entered and transactions recorded without looking back and asking “why did we design our people system of record the way we did?”

There is a story that my old friend Don told me once which made me laugh and think about how we perceive why things are done the way they are done…

Every Christmas, my mom made a roast that everyone in the family just loved.  When I was old enough, she taught me how to make it, but one thing always bothered me.  We loved the recipe and always made it the same as she did, but why did we cut off the ends of the roast.

She said, “you know, that’s a great question.  Let’s ask Grandma since this is her recipe.”  So, we called Grandma.  I asked her, “So why did we cut the ends off of the roast?”  She laughed and said “Honey, I cut the ends off to fit the roast in the pan.”

We record events in our people system of record the same way as always, not because they are the right things, the most efficient, or the most measurable.    We do it because they have always been done that way…  maybe it’s time for us to look at them again.

In order for us to accurately measure anything with analytics such as turnover rate, headcount or otherwise, the definition of data entered into our systems need to be clearly followed for each element else the measurements will be inaccurate.  So, the data clean up we perform at the start of an analytics endeavor is a critical part of the effort to provide confidence in the stories we tell from the insights we find in the now, clean data.

Think about how good that roast may be if we ate the ends, or maybe the roast will taste sweeter to continue to cut the ends off the way Grandma did.

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about the author
David has over 30 years of experience starting with an Economics and Econometrics degree from the Pennsylvania State University.

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