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Revise Policies To Clarify Data Ownership

October 1, 1999
Related Topics: Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Policies and Procedures, Featured Article
The use of HR software, particularly with extended self-service capabilities, warrants the review of policies related to data ownership and needed approval levels. The introduction of these new technologies should prompt an examination of approval levels for various transactions or workplace events. It isn’t uncommon to find organizations that require multiple levels of approval for even simple information changes.

A study conducted by the Centre for ESS Strategy and Research found that over 65 percent of the information typically maintained in HR software, is "owned" by the employee. The employees are responsible for the most accurate information about themselves, their demographics, their educations, their benefits elections, and so forth.

This shift in data ownership and approval policies is an important one. Although giving employees the ability to maintain their own information somewhat shifts the responsibility of data accuracy from the company to the employee, the company still has ultimate responsibility for accuracy. Policies should be in place to periodically confirm the accuracy of information in the system. At annual or semi-annual intervals, employees should be sent a summaries of their basic information with a request that the employee notify the employer of and changes.

Edit Guidelines
Another important element of HR software policy is the reassessment of audit and edit guidelines. Some of the rationale for the past practices of many review and approval levels was the need for extensive editing of each transaction. Certainly, a significant feature of all HR software is its transaction editing capability. That reality, coupled with employee ownership, can result in significant process streamlining, which is after all one of the reasons to automate HR to begin with.

However, this can be taken even further, with a change in associated policies. For example, travel and business expense submission is commonly being done using extensions of HR and self-service software. Past practice has been to "edit" for all receipts as a part of the approval and reimbursement process. This time-consuming process is being replaced with a "selected or random audit" policy, which pays the employee immediately upon submission, and conducts audits (on only a selected sample of expense reports) after the fact. If the employee is found to have submitted erroneous information, consequences result.

Before adopting this approach, some organizations have conducted "disapproval studies" to understand what percent of submitted expense reports are disapproved. In most cases, these studies show that disapproval rarely occurs, therefore, an audit versus edit policy may be warranted.

Access to Data
Other issues to consider with the deployment of HR software, particularly in the Internet environment, include usage and access policies.

Some organizations have adopted high scrutiny, controlling and monitoring models with the associated policies. Others prefer an approach that fosters independent, continuous learning, with the belief that this freedom (and trust) will enhance employee self-development and better performance.

As enterprise portal technologies emerge, some blend of the policy positions will be needed. With all the information that’s available, some companies have begun to address what’s becoming known as the "corporate attention deficit syndrome." Employee performance is being affected by excessive demands on time and attention. HR policy makers need to understand and respond to this issue by crafting and communicating the appropriate balance in policies that support the access and usage needs of today’s knowledge worker.

Workforce, October 1999, Vol. 78, No. 10, pp. 103-104.

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