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Self-Service Data Preparation Eliminates HR Reporting and Compliance Woes

By   /  April 26, 2017  /  No Comments

Click here to learn more about author Jon Pilkington.

HR professionals are widely recognized for hiring new talent, minimizing churn, and playing a tremendous role in keeping employees happy and the business running smoothly. But, behind the scenes, the job entails endless HR reporting and compliance requirements. And because most organizations remain dependent on a variety of disparate systems, complex spreadsheets, labor-intensive manual processes and inconsistent data to fulfill these tasks, even the most common reporting or compliance project can quickly become a major headache.

For example, HR is responsible for on-going reporting and analysis of employee engagement, retention, churn, headcount, talent acquisition, skills and certification, and workforce planning – to name a few. Completing each requires access to a wide range of employee data from multiple systems, which means HR analysts are spending countless hours manually collecting information from diverse sources, pulling it into spreadsheets for analysis, and then reporting on it; with no guarantee of accuracy given the risk of human error.

And then there’s industry and federal compliance requirements to consider, including:

  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) – ERISA requires administrators and plan sponsors of 401k plans with 100 or more participants to file a form 5500 annually with the Department of Labor and the IRS. In addition, organizations are audited annually to ensure that paycheck deductions are submitted to 401k plans in a reasonable time period. In order to comply, HR must provide the amount of payment and the remittance date to the 401k provider for each of its employees for 24 pay periods, dating back five years. This information often exists in large PDF and Excel files, and manual data extraction requires HR teams to work around the clock for days, or even weeks, to submit their 5500s by the deadline and prepare for the audit.
  • EEO-1 Reports – Pay equity transparency is a high priority this year, as calculating and reporting on the gender pay gap will become expected within companies and required as a federal regulation. New Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules, and other initiatives that address pay equity, require tracking and reporting in EEO-1 reports. Additionally, HR is often tasked to review issues such as pay equity in advance of management or board meetings, which may involve analyzing pay rates across a number of variables, including gender, race and position/role.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – ACA compliance reporting is complex and time consuming, requiring hours worked, salary, benefit enrollment and affordability calculations – all of which rely on time and attendance, payroll, benefits, and core HR platform data.
  • State and Federal Leave Policies – In addition to the complexities of maintaining compliance with federal leave policies (e.g., the Family and Medical Leave Act), many states now have their own laws regarding paid leave, requiring even more policies and procedures to report on.

Regardless of whether they are prepared annually, or initiated by an incident or event, compliance and other HR reports require analysts and administrators to manually find and collect data from a variety of disparate sources, and then reconcile, extract and input it into spreadsheets for analysis. And with so much of HR’s time focused on these mundane tasks, other business-critical duties can quickly fall to the wayside.

Self-Service Data Prep Eases the Pain

The good news for HR professionals is that self-service data preparation tools are designed to simplify and automate these operational tasks – making reconciliation, analysis, reporting and compliance completely painless. With this technology, users can easily and rapidly acquire, manipulate, blend and reconcile data from virtually any source – structured or unstructured. Data can be prepared for analysis in a fraction of the time that it takes using spreadsheets and other manually-intensive measures. And this means that the majority of time can be spent on performing analysis that yields more accurate and strategic HR decisions.

In addition to tremendous time savings and faster, more accurate analysis, self-service data prep tools provide companies with a plethora of additional business benefits, including the ability to:

  • Meet compliance requirements quickly and easily;
  • Mitigate risk of financial penalties for late, missed or inaccurate filings;
  • Safeguard employee data with governance features, such as data masking, data retention, data lineage and role-based permissions;
  • Avoid supplemental staffing costs for manual data entry and preparation;
  • Improve operational processes, such as leadership development programs and training activities; and
  • Spend more time focused on serving employees.

To demonstrate the ROI that self-service data prep solutions can provide, check out the following story from The Marbridge Foundation. In a nutshell, with self-service data preparation, the non-profit is saving an estimated 2,000 to 3,500 man-hours associated with ACA compliance reporting. The Foundation is also now able to minimize costs, reduce the risk of penalties for errors, and efficiently meet reporting requirements with confidence.

Re-Focusing on What’s Most Important – Employees

Reporting and compliance are necessary evils for HR, but, thankfully, self-service data prep now provides analysts and other data users with a better – and automated – way to access, manipulate, blend and govern data. The technology empowers HR to increase productivity, obtain faster insights, reduce compliance risk and enable workforce analytics strategies – among a host of other benefits. Most importantly, it enables HR professionals to maintain a laser-focus on what’s most important – their employees.

About the author

Chief Product Officer

Jon Pilkington, Chief Product Officer at Datawatch As Chief Product Officer, Jon Pilkington brings more than two decades of business analytics experience to Datawatch, including 18 years in the business intelligence market. He has been referred to as one of the founders of data preparation solutions. Jon joins Datawatch from Sonian Systems, a public cloud email archiving vendor, where he served as vice president of marketing and product management. Prior to Sonian, Jon was vice president of marketing and product management at Metatomix, a real-time data integration vendor. Jon previously spent 13 years at Cognos in a variety of executive roles, including vice president of business intelligence product management, vice president of global solution architects and vice president of North American field marketing. Jon holds a B.S. in Management Information Systems from Bryant University and is the recipient of several industry awards, including the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council 2008 “CXO of the Year.” To read more about Jon’s views of data preparation and business intelligence technologies, read his latest posts on LinkedIn and the Datawatch Blog, or follow him on Twitter: @Jon_Pilkington.

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