I know the term “data integrity” is not the sexiest thing to talk about, but it is one of those things that is, for better or worse, very powerful for HR professionals to understand. Part of my general intake conversation when working with a new client involves asking them how confident they are with their data. Probably 90% of the time I get in response, “It’s great. Let’s talk about the project.” My follow up questions is always, “Would you bet your paycheck on it?”

After they give a cockeyed look, they ask me to explain.

As a business manager they make decisions about the business based on the data they have available to them. In the talent acquisition world we look at things like time to fill, cost of hire, source of hire, etc. The accuracy of that information is critical to their business decisions, so if they are making those decisions based on inaccurate data, they are in essence betting their pay check on the data being accurate.

How do I know if my data is accurate?

There are a few things you can look at to get a good idea if the data you are collecting is accurate.

First, do your reports render properly? To answer this, ask yourself, “Does everything ‘look’ right? Are there points in my reports that look off?”

For example if you run a time to fill report, and it says your average time to fill is 100+ days but you know that nothing has been open for more than 60 days that’s a pretty good indicator things look “off.”

Second, do you have good data controls or governance? For the things you want to good data on, what measures do you have in place to ensure you are getting quality data?

Lastly, is the data you are seeking relevant to your business decisions? There is an extreme amount of data that is produced every day on just about everything. If the data you are looking at has little to no value to your decision making, don’t focus on it. Data that isn’t helping you to make better decisions will be a distraction to the data you need to focus on.

What steps can you take to decrease uncertainty around your data?

The first thing we need to understand and embrace is that it will never be perfect--nothing ever is, and that is ok.

Instead of perfection, your goal should be to reduce the uncertainty around your decisions. Let’s say that your data is 60% accurate. Then you move that accuracy to 90%, which means moving your data quality up by 50%. This alone will give you a huge advantage in your decision making. Let’s look at how we move that needle:

Your first pass at this is always the hardest, because you want to trust the data 100%; however it is critical that you socialize your data. Share it with the people who are creating it. If you are in Talent Acquisition, share with the recruiters, onboarding, coordinators, etc. They are going to be the ones who will point out when something doesn’t seem right. Take notes on what data points they say it about, and investigate.

Note that one of two things will happen from this exercise: you will either validate that the information is correct, which will lead to an increase in your confidence in the data, or you will invalidate the data. If your data isn’t correct, but you still find an issue that you can address and fix in order to gain increased confidence in your data, then it is still a win (despite the original inaccuracy).

Another wise step is to implement some data governance controls. When going through this implementation, use your business process as your guide. For example, if you want better data around your throughput, then put controls in place where a recruiter is not able to move a candidate from one step until they have completed the previous steps. Most of these controls can be layered in to your ATS, and from there you can get a lot of insight on productivity, source effectiveness, and a lot of other points around your recruiting process.

Finally, I would suggest you that begin with the end in mind when thinking through this issue. Where is it you want to go, what is it you want to know with more certainty, and why does it matter? Answering these questions prior to starting down this path will limit distractions, increase focus, and give you better results in less time. Remember your data helps drive your decision making; you need to be able to trust it.

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