The future of HR data ownership

The future of work is changing, and HR functions and their technology systems need to keep pace with significant developments, writes Rob Scott

Right now, organisations collect, create, store and own HR-related data during the “hire-to-retire” lifecycle of an employee. That’s changing. We are observing rapid and significant transformation taking place in the make-up and design of workforces and workplaces.

Together with the proliferation of mobile, wearable and social tools which collect, analyse and track personal information, the inevitable overlap of similar data as well as access to behavioural-based analytics is creating new opportunities and threats for HR departments and their technologies.

What’s driving the change?
Personal awareness, and in particular the desire to know more and better manage one’s health, is a major catalyst for the creation of HR-type data outside of the work environment. Mobile apps, geo-positioning and wearable technologies are making the data collection process easy, while the connection of physical objects such as your office chair or asthma inhaler to the internet (known as the “Internet of things”) is supplementing the realm of value-adding business information.

This explosion of new personal information is growing beyond simple physical measures – such as heart rate, weight, exercise regime and sleep patterns – to include more sophisticated behavioural measures such as levels of motivation, mood, stress, travel and meeting plans. More importantly, this information is being integrated, analysed and presented back to the user to help make future decisions.

The second major catalyst for new personal data creation is the changing work environment and nature of work. Organisations are switching permanent roles for more cost-effective temporary or part-time roles, and creating mixed staff/contractor ad hoc teams which form and disband in an agile manner. At the same time, average tenure at one organisation is decreasing, meaning people are changing jobs more often and potentially holding more than one part-time job at a time.

These work environment changes cut across blue and white collar groups and have given rise to the “i-pro” or independent professional, as well as the outsourcing of routine-type work to contractors prepared to price-bid on platforms such as Elance, oDesk and topcoder.

Storing and sharing my data
These drivers of change are resulting in many people building personal HR data portfolios containing biographical information, skills, abilities and experience, job history, remuneration, preferences, performance assessments and other useful HR information. They keep it up to date to have the best chance of securing their next job or contract.

Together with personal stores of health and behavioural data, it makes perfect sense that in the long run, people will want technology mechanisms to selectively share all or parts of their data stores with potential employers or agents rather than filling out new forms. In the tough talent war, such efficiency could be a deciding factor for an applicant.

Some of the leading HR technology companies are providing touch points to social solutions like LinkedIn; however, these are simplistic and mono-directional sharing capabilities. Future HR solutions need the ability to fully integrate with personal databases and have bi-directional update capability, including the ability to analyse new behavioural, health, planning, geo-positioning and non-transactional type data which employees give permission to use.

In 2013, the Financial Times calculated the value of personal information – for most, our data is worth less than $1, but as people start taking ownership of their data and determining who can use it, that value is likely to grow. HR of the future may need to include data negotiation skills into their skill set.

Key insights for HR

  • HR systems need the ability to fully integrate with our online social, health, planning and geo-positional personal data, with mechanisms in place that allow the owner to control what is shared and how it is used.
  • The future core HR data system will be co-owned and co-managed, becoming an exchange rather than a HR department-managed data repository.
  • The notion that a core HR system is the primary source of truth for people data in organisations will shift as HR systems integrate with employee and contractor personal databases.
  • Being able to technically share your personal information with a company’s HR system, rather than completing forms, could be a powerful talent attraction and employee value proposition.
  • The dollar value of personal information is growing and will drive people to take greater control and ownership.