Real-Time Human Resources Data for Improved Workforce Management

March 30, 2016
By Melanie May
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Melanie May

36 articles

When it comes to capital, perhaps the most difficult type for organizations to track, report, and forecast is human. Unlike financial capital, employees aren’t just numbers that go up and down. Employees continually shift categories—new hire, promoted, retired, rehired—and have changing attributes—bonuses, raises, benefits, skills, and performance. Add to this shifting mix processes like recruiting and benefit negotiations and it’s easy to see how organizations and their human resources (HR) departments are challenged with effective workforce management, even with volumes of detailed data in their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Given this wealth of ERP information, the use of predictive analytics is a tantalizing goal for HR departments, and investment in people analytics is on the rise. However, establishing a causative relationship between what HR does and business outcomes and then creating strategies based on that information is a journey, and many organizations struggle with the first basic steps toward predictive analytics: data integrity and transactional reporting. Much of this struggle lies with the limitations and complexities of reporting from ERP systems.

Complex, Error-prone Data Extraction

Pulling HR or other data into a usable report format from ERP systems like Oracle is not as easy as it may sound. Standard Oracle reporting tools dump data into a text file, meaning it can’t be easily manipulated or combined with report data from various modules in Oracle’s Human Capital Management (HCM) without rekeying into a user-familiar program like Microsoft Excel. This process is both time-consuming and error ridden.

Using structured query language (SQL) to extract data from complex underlying Oracle tables into Excel is another option. However, this requires a programmer or consultant to create and modify the SQL reports, which may be cost prohibitive. Also, this person must truly be an expert in Oracle tables, because pulling the wrong code could miss required information, which is difficult to determine when looking at thousands of records.

Although Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) can export data into Excel, it is expensive to implement and maintain. It’s also difficult for the typical user, and some companies with the tool find they can’t justify expert resources needed to run it. And, OBIEE doesn’t ensure data integrity. For example, your OBIEE export into Excel may inaccurately show all job vacancies assigned to a former recruiter because you’ve linked to the wrong table.

In all of the previous scenarios, the extracted data in Excel is static, meaning it’s only accurate for the day it was retrieved. And, there is no “self-service” reporting for the HR department, leaving them dependent on outside help.

Unique HR Data Attributes

Date tracking is a storage concept based on dates that Oracle uses to maintain past, present, and future HR data. All HR activities in Oracle are date tracked, which is unique compared with other Oracle data. It’s also a huge challenge for HR reporting in getting a clear picture of activities within a prescribed time frame, because the system can’t identify whether you are pulling a historical record that’s still current in terms of the employee’s status, or one that has been changed.

For example, if HR is asked to run a New Hire report for 2016 on December 31 of that year, the report only pulls the final number; it won’t reflect employees who were terminated or those who were perhaps terminated and rehired for seasonal positions, as examples. Other examples are Job Change and Supervisor Change reports, because Oracle doesn’t track discreet information like job changes; it just knows “something” happened to an employee on a certain date.

Options for Masking Oracle Complexities

Given the described challenges in creating accurate transactional reports, many HR departments look for reporting options outside of their ERP system. Fortunately, certain Excel-based reporting tools allow HR users to autonomously access live Oracle data to create up-to-the-minute reports that can be refreshed with a mouse click. These tools feature seeded SQL and pre-defined, accurate “views”—or links—into Oracle database tables. Installed within the underlying Oracle database, these views mask the complicated SQL needed to reach the complex base tables containing HR and other data, while an Excel-front end provides live views and reporting. This combined functionality lets HR users independently access Excel to create and analyze highly-formatted, accurate, and refreshable reports and queries, without needing experts for deployment, report setup, and programming.

Some common reports that can be easily created with the Excel-based tool are: new hire, terminated, costing (for finance), organization (is this job hourly or salary; EEO code), job change, and supervisor. Others include: job assignment (current and historical), benefits (elections and dependents), tenure, life event, contact (address and phone), and more.

Because Oracle access is live through the Excel front end with no exporting required, there are no concerns as to data integrity or timeliness. More difficult reports with date tracking, like Job Change reports, are easy to build. For example, the Excel-based tool can determine who had changes in their job assignment form, look at the next date to see if their job is the same or different, and then report a job change. It may sound simple, but it’s not the case with Oracle reporting.

With accurate and timely transactional reports, HR is on its way to playing a more strategic role in the organization. An Excel-based tool can free time for more analysis—and prediction—of employee and talent needs. This improved workforce management can truly impact the bottom line. It’s a win-win proposition for HR users of ERP systems, organizations, and employees alike.

Which Oracle reporting tool is right for you? Find the best fit here. 

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