Inappropriate Technology Hampers HR’s Reporting on Pandemic

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HR leaders believe their departments lack the tools and skills necessary to accurately track the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on their organization and effectively predict the virus’s workforce and business consequences.

Research by the UK HR analyst firm Fosway Group found that only 25 percent of HR departments can easily track data points such as the number of employees who are self-isolating, working remotely or have been hospitalized. More than half—57 percent—rely on their core HR systems to provide such information, but 40 percent are using spreadsheets.

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More concerning is how few HR leaders believe they’re ready to make sense of pandemic-related data. Just 13 percent say they’re able to easily use the information to predict how the coronavirus will impact their company. The reason may not lie so much in technology as training: Seventy percent said their teams don’t have the skills needed to perform such analysis.  

All this comes as HR scrambles to answer pressing questions from executive teams, which are needed to help companies keep their businesses operating. Fosway Group leadership wants to know which employees are most at-risk (72 percent), “the scale of infection” among their workers (68 percent), information about furlough costs (64 percent) and the percentage of workers using sick pay (45 percent).

Privacy concerns complicate HR’s work to answer these queries. Employers are “walking a tightrope” as they balance gathering personal data with protecting workers’ personal information, Fosway Group said.  

Proper HR Reporting Tools

Training aside, HR’s efforts to gather and analyze pandemic-related data are hampered by its reliance on systems undertaking work they weren’t designed to do. Most HR technology solutions weren’t designed to record or analyze the data executives need, said Fosway Group CEO David Wilson. “There is enormous reliance on managers and spreadsheets to support new daily reporting, and only a minority have the tools to model the future impact of COVID-19 on their workforce and ongoing business operations,” he wrote.

For example, the  research found that the great majority of employees—80 percent—report their status through their manager. Self-service web forms and HR help desks are the next most-mentioned channels.

Fosway Group sees some lessons emerging from the crisis. While most organizations are still making up their approach to COVID-19 reporting as they go along, they’ve begun to recognize the value of increased self-service, mobile access to HR systems, enhanced data gathering and employee communications.

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