GettyImages/ Dimitri Otis

Data-Driven HR Management Faces Uphill Climb

While data can help state and local human resources agencies make better decisions, legacy technology, skills gaps and staff resistance can stand in the way, a new report says.

As state and local human resource agencies try to make better use of their data, they face a number of challenges.

Legacy technology makes it difficult to extract relevant data, preventing state and local governments from effectively using data for their human resources management, according to a white paper from cloud-based human capital management company UKG. Additionally, agencies often don’t have staff with data analysis skills.

Another challenge, according to the report, is pushback from employees who fear being “victimized” by the data they collect or expect that the data collection process won’t lead to any improvements.

Those factors often prevent HR professionals in state and local governments from turning the data they collect into action.

“We’re trying hard to figure out how to use data effectively,” Darin Seeley, South Dakota’s commissioner of the Bureau of Human Resources, said in the report. “But we’re still in the stage where we gather data, not where we turn it into information. When I get reports, they’re sometimes just lists of categorized data.”

However, government HR departments can use data to help them make decisions on hiring and study staff turnover, overtime and equity, the report said. 

Oklahoma City used data to reduce the average time it takes to hire a new employee, and in Columbus, Ohio, data showed that firehouses in the city were unnecessarily exposing firefighters to engine exhaust fumes. Connecticut’s human resources department used data to analyze the demographic makeup of its new hires to see if it is making progress on equitable representation.

Despite the challenges faced with adopting data-driven HR practices, the COVID-19 outbreak may have accelerated progress. Stephen Fuller, Oklahoma City’s enterprise program manager, said in the report that the pandemic meant “not having as many people clinging to the old ways of doing things.”