What Lessons Can This Crisis Teach Us About Our People Data?

Written by David Turetsky

April 10, 2020

What Lessons Can This Crisis Teach Us About Our People Data?

During the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, I was working for an investment bank in New York City. At the time of the bombing, we couldn’t believe that terrorism could come so close to home and that it could impact our daily lives so dramatically.  In response to that crisis, we created an urgent need for updated personal/emergency contact details and reporting relationships.  But it also signaled a renewed need to understand what we do in the case of a major disaster.  Since then there have been several crises that have affected us… both nature and human made.

What lessons can this Pandemic teach us?  Have we found holes in our people data that prevent us from making a smooth transition between office-based and home-based work?  How about our time systems? What about tax filings now that more people are working home-based?  Do we even know who was home-based before the crisis and who is home-based now?  Do we know who and how we can communicate effectively to all employees through appropriate channels?  The answers start with taking some efforts from all of us:


Can we take the time to make sure that we look at the core structures underlying our data: jobs, earnings codes, pay codes, hierarchies, and locations? Analyzing your people data without these key tables being accurate could lead to wrong conclusions and thus inappropriate or even damaging resulting actions.  So, while you may have been busy with the updates required by the COVID-19 regulation changes, it may be a good time to put some cycles into reviewing these key data structures.


Let’s ask managers to take the time to review their employee populations.  Have them take a look at reporting relationships, job titles, grading, maybe even have them review job matches for salary surveys.  If you have a good template, it might be a good idea for managers to look at current or even draft new job descriptions.  Does the crisis have an effect on their employee’s jobs?


It might be a good use of resources to send out requests to currently home-based employees to have them help us by updating their data using Employee Self-Service.  Have they looked at their beneficiaries lately?  Mailing address changes? Updated mobile phone or email addresses? Emergency contacts? Think of it as “data Spring cleaning.”  

If you work in People Analytics, HR, HRIT, IT, or Finance, our day jobs still need to go on.  But if you provide insights to managers and executives that they are relying on to make critical decisions now, you may look back at this time and wonder if there were things we could have done to improve our People Data to make analytics more accurate.  In crises, our data is key to ensuring that we can make the best decisions possible for our stakeholders including our customers, employees, managers/executives and shareholders.  Any updates, no matter how small they may seem are good steps forward.  Take one when you have a moment.  Take two and you will feel a deeper sense of accomplishment.  Take more when you can… stay safe and we will get through this.

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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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