HR Tech Number of the Week: Spreadsheet use

HR leaders who still rely on Excel to manage their workforce are leaving the business vulnerable to stagnant data and less diversity.
By: | November 19, 2021

Modern businesses are drowning in various sources and types of data and human resource departments are no different. According to Oracle’s recent State of HR Analytics 2021 report, more than 55% of organizations continue to use spreadsheets to house employee data and less than half of HR managers report being proficient in gathering and keeping their people analytics data current.

What does this mean for HR leaders?

HR teams plagued by poorly managed data are unable to stay on top of critical business factors, including headcount, promotion tracking, employee compensation and company-wide initiatives like diversity, equity and inclusion. “As a result, employees feel misrepresented by their employer and alienated from their teams and managers, which often leads to a lack of motivation in their role,” says Ian White, founder and CEO of ChartHop, an org chart and data management firm.

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“Companies feel the consequences of employee disengagement, like increase in turnover, a decrease in productivity and overall poor customer satisfaction,” he adds.

Related: Want real HR change? Look to data and analytics

HR leaders need to recognize the drawbacks of keeping HR data in a spreadsheet. Programs like Microsoft Excel traditionally have been the go-to method for compiling employee data pulled from the various systems HR teams use on a regular basis. “Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of time wasted performing ‘spreadsheet gymnastics’ without producing any meaningful insight into some of the most important things every company should know about its people,” says White.

Furthermore, relying on outdated and error-prone spreadsheets can hinder HR teams from focusing on more strategic initiatives that help the company make better people-driven decisions.

According to HR analyst Josh Bersin, roughly 80% of organizations don’t hold themselves accountable for proper DEI initiatives. White suggests that this can be due to how organizations house their employee data, whether on spreadsheets or physical paperwork. “Without a comprehensive view and understanding of employee characteristics throughout a company, data can become ‘hidden’ and negatively impact how leadership cultivates genuine DEI initiatives,” he says.

Related: How Chevron drilled into its HR data to tap new talent

DE&I is not just about the demographics of a company. White says that it’s how these elements intersect with other criteria, such as performance and engagement, that help organizations understand whether they’re fostering equity and improving the lives of all employee populations. 

“Until employee data is at the forefront of company-wide decision making,” says White, “leadership will continue to make decisions that don’t align with employees or, at the end of the day, their mission.”  

Phil Albinus is HR Tech Editor for HRE. He has been covering personal and business technology for 25 years and has served as editor and executive editor for a number of financial services, trading technology and employee benefits titles. He is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and lives in the Hudson Valley with his audiologist wife and three adult children. He can be reached at palbinus@lrp.com and followed on Twitter @philalbinus.