The role HR master data plays in connecting your company during uncertain times

If a problem is too large, break it down into manageable chunks, right? That’s why business units were created. Departments like Procurement, Marketing, Legal, Finance, and R&D allow businesses to build specialised teams that are experts at performing specific functions – and should thus be able to together solve said problem. 

Yet we all know too well that silos create disconnects and make it hard to access the whole. Dealing with the outcome of a siloed organisation and insufficient data is an issue that has exponentially increased during the onset of the current global COVID-19 pandemic. 

A business and its units at heart are all about the people who work in them, and a well-functioning HR department can improve performance by providing both individual support and building a high-level picture of the needs, capabilities, and structure of your company’s workforce. 

To navigate times of uncertainty – and ensure business continuity – HR departments need to have a solid foundation to build on with structured and easily accessible employee master data.

“HR can help by giving a business a view on its most important assets – its people.” 

People, pay, and planning

HR data provides crucial information in support of other business unit functions. When it comes to people joining and leaving your company, HR departments with solid master data have a factual base for understanding what a successful employee journey looks like and how to organise this process. They will be able to recruit through digital channels in a smarter way, onboard successfully, build succession plans that ensure departments are never short of the personnel they need, and provide valuable guidance when restructuring is required.

Payroll is a huge expense for most companies, and being on top of the numbers is key when it comes to going over costs. There can be little understanding of whether salaries are evenly distributed when different roles, skills, experience, progress, corporate social responsibility, and diversity are taken into account. Pass this information onto finance, and you will make friends.

“Being on top of the reasons behind the numbers will help you make the right decisions when planning and organising your staff.”

The availability of your staff is crucial data in times of pressure. Absences, holidays and remote working schedules are important to track in order to be on top of what is happening. For instance, a high rate of sick leaves could indicate demotivated employees and a need to train managers, or it could indicate a team with a high number of parents with young children. A solid HR master data set will help interpret this information correctly.

Data-driven employee satisfaction

In today’s extremely fluid situation, it is even more important than ever before for HR to build new digital processes to connect with employees, so a rapid shift to digital channels is essential to maintain an accurate picture. Supporting business operations and business continuity is one obvious benefit of digital HR tools and accurate HR master data, but they will also help you support your people through uncertain times.

“From a practical perspective, informed HR decisions and recommendations can only be made if you have a complete picture of your employees and clear strategic goals.”

An HR master data set based on the right KPIs includes data points that give a better collective understanding of areas that concern the staff as a whole, but also of areas like personal development and individual motivation. It can also enable better forecasting and trend-based predictions. For example, you can track if employee satisfaction actually goes up if HR gives managers the tools and training they need to help employees align work with individual goals.

Master data should give you insights into the whole palette. If you are strong on competence mapping but weak on individual goal setting, you could be at risk of demotivating people by guiding them onto a development path that supports company strategy but does not positively engage them on a personal level. 

In times where the strategy can change fast and you need to regroup, digital tools help you gather the right data to effectively communicate and implement changes and lead your people towards a new direction while simultaneously tracking your progress and adjusting accordingly. Organisations with this type of resilience are the ones likely to succeed.

Properly-structured HR master data can also act as a window onto a company’s culture. It can be hard to know if business units and different locations have adopted company-wide culture points, or if HR initiatives are having the right impact. A standardised, automated process for collecting data can give a granular view of teams and locations, as well as a country and company-wide understanding of how much progress is really being made. 

“With the right HR data and HR KPIs, you will preserve and cherish what makes your organisation unique.”

Tracking HR ROI

Insights such as these help HR professionals track ROI for their initiatives. Having access to HR master data also helps ensure decision making is well-informed and based on accurate data.

On the other hand, an automated process designed to collect and handle employee data in compliance with GDPR, privacy, and employment law requirements will deliver savings in time, money, and potential future legal costs. In a situation like the current COVID-19 pandemic, the first questions many companies ask are very basic: how many people work for us? Where can all find their contact information? How many are on sick leave or working from home? How do I handle a potential organisational restructuring? 

For example, overall efficiency savings of 50-75% have been seen by HR departments adopting fully digital contract creation processes. Digital HR tools will save any organisation a tremendous amount of time – a resource that is sparse when a crisis is at the corner.


There is no such thing as the perfect Master HR data set, and the rate at which this data changes is now faster than ever before. My suggestion to you is this: build on top of a solid, automated, administrative base; decide what to track by defining KPIs that help you keep a current view of your company’s most important asset, its people, measure the impact of your initiatives – and keep on incrementally learning as you navigate the new normal.

Written by Jaakko Mattila, Business Development Manager at Sympa HR.

Jaakko has specialised in HR development and new industry trends and happenings. He is interested in the possibilities that predictive HR analytics offer for developing Human Resource Management and Businesses.

Author: Editorial Team

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