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HR reporting: It’s all about the customer


HR reporting
Bettina Pickering, of PA Consulting Group, discusses how organisations can increase the value-add of HR reporting by making it ‘customer-centric’.

HR reporting – not a topic that tends to excite people. Usually it is one of the more painful HR tasks, preparing reports on headcount, absence and other transactional HR activities.

Report preparation processes demand a great deal of time and effort from HR staff, as few HR systems seem to present the range of HR reports required at the push of a button.

“Report preparation processes demand a great deal of time and effort from HR staff, as few HR systems seem to present the range of HR reports required at the push of a button.”

Data for the reports is often not in the right format, or requires manual consolidation from different systems. And let’s face it, data more often than not needs to be checked and rechecked to make sure it is accurate.

Most collections of reports, that HR is able to draw from its systems, assume that one size fits all. Many HR reports focus on backward looking detailed actuals, for example training statistics, absence and recruitment statistics. However, they often neglect reporting on past/future trends within and across HR processes, anomalies, ROI and payback of HR initiatives and benchmark comparisons.

This is especially problematic because management information is a good way of promoting where the HR department adds value to its customers. Run of the mill HR reporting unfortunately doesn’t often explicitly show value add of HR to its customers; it leaves it to the recipient and user to make the connection without sufficient additional information such as benchmarks, targets or budgets.

Although, a number of organisations have developed employee and manager portals to bring in some differentiation, few have introduced real ‘customer-centric’ reporting focussed on the decision-making needs of their ‘customer base’.

Understanding HR’s customer base and their reporting needs

HR’s customers for management information are not just the board groups of employees, managers and the HR department itself, as most HR reporting solutions assume. HR’s customer base is much more varied and diverse, with the broad segments shown in the diagram below.

Key HR customer segments (click image to view larger version)

Take employees for example. Employees are interested in their benefits choices, appraisal and performance scores, training courses and choices, absence details and personal data the organisation holds on them. This tends to be provided by standard employee self service applications. What tends to be missing in most cases though is, for example:

  • Information on the impact of HR initiatives on the individual or their department, i.e. helping them to understand difference an HR initiative made.

  • Trend analysis bringing together competency performance scores and training courses attended, i.e. to show whether training or other learning and development interventions have had the desired effect.

  • Degree to which objectives have been achieved.

This type of information would enable the employee to make much better choices on where to invest their time and what to focus on.

Another good example is department heads. They tend to get all the usual statistics on their department, including absence figures, recruitment figures, HR costs and budget, headcount information (joiners, leavers), any employee relations issues. Most of these reports tend to convey straight numbers and do not show trends across various HR processes or benchmark one department against other departments.

The types of reports that would be useful for department heads and, in fact, business partners supporting these departments are, for example:

  • Trend analysis on employee turnover including key reasons linked to line managers, employee performance, and key departmental changes.

  • Overview of impact of HR initiatives on the department with focus on value for money and employee performance/productivity.

  • Comparison between departments and industry benchmarks with regard to absence, employee performance and learning and development trends.

These types of reports will enable department heads to make more informed decisions with regard to line manager coaching and training, employee communication and contact, objective setting and performance management. It will also ensure that department heads understand the kind of value HR adds to their department and will be more inclined to support HR budget increases in future.

Delivering customer-centric reporting

Delivering customer centric reporting for HR requires some up front work to identify the different HR management information audiences and their needs, as well as HR’s communication and marketing needs for these audiences.

“Although HR has come a long way in terms of reporting over the last decade, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure reporting is fit for purpose for each HR customer segment.”

As most of the data should already be available through the current HR systems, HR might need to think about buying a business intelligence solution (if the current HR reporting solution is not suitable) which draws data from the various HR systems and business systems and is able to provide customer centric reports through portals, for example.

Although HR has come a long way in terms of reporting over the last decade, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure reporting is fit for purpose for each HR customer segment.

Because HR touches everyone within the organisation, either as a service provider or as an employer or both, it has a very varied management information ‘consumer’ base. And more than any other department, HR often needs to justify its existence and size of budget.

Without focussed and advanced reporting, that is customer-centric as well as promoting HR’s contribution to business success, many HR managers will find it very difficult to fight their corner when it comes to HR budget increases and budget approval for special HR initiatives.

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