Hidden Gold in HR Reporting and the HR Dashboard - Analytics in HR

Hidden Gold in HR Reporting and the HR Dashboard

HR reporting is an important precondition for data-driven decision making. Why? Because it’s hard to make informed decisions when HR business partners and other stakeholders lack...

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10516 1

HR reporting is an important precondition for data-driven decision making. Why? Because it’s hard to make informed decisions when HR business partners and other stakeholders lack insight into their own organization. Never fear, HR reporting can solve this! How? Well, that’s what this article is all about.

Here, we’ll explore the advantages of an HR report as well as the data and metrics which could be included therein. I’ll also include a few HR report templates to provide you with some practical insights in how to get yourself started.

3 Functions of an HR Report

Reporting on the workforce is one of the HR’s essential tasks. When done right, it offers three key benefits for both HR and management:

  • HR Monitoring. Regular reporting enables HR to keep a finger on the pulse of the organizations by tracking key workforce metrics. New trends and opportunities can be spotted early on and emerging problems can be addressed before they significantly impact the business.
  • Management information. An HR report can also help managers in doing their job better. An HR report can inform managers about relevant developments in their teams and department. When, for example, the marketing department struggles with high turnover and a high time-to-hire, managers will be more likely to put emphasis on retaining employees and will be aware of risks like longer replacement times when someone is about to leave.
  • Track problem areas. HR reporting also offers a great way to track key problem areas in a transparent way. Transparency in turnover rates per manager will encourage them to pay closer attention to retaining employees because their own reputation is on the line! By tracking problem areas, HR can leverage its position to drive improvements.

How to create an HR Report

Before beginning your HR report, there are a few considerations to be made about the ‘how’ and ‘when’.

Related: What is HR analytics?

Automated vs. manual

A lot of organizations still work with ad-hoc data reports. For example, when a manager or director wants to know something about the organization’s workforce, they ask HR to send them a report. After this request, the HR data department will work overtime to produce this report. This is an example of (inefficient and) reactive reporting. HR reports should be deployed (pro)actively and should, therefore, be automated.

Static vs. dashboard

In line with the previous point, there’s still a fair amount of organizations that work with manual/paper reports. This isn’t necessarily bad: When the information isn’t prone to change, paper reports can be quite effective.

In addition, an email containing a report might be more likely to be seen than an infrequent update on a dashboard. This is simply because people won’t use dashboards that don’t constantly add value, like David Creelman described in his blog on Why you produce HR dashboards no one will use.

A dashboard, however, offers the possibility to drill down. Turnover may be an interesting metric, but how much of this turnover consists of regretted loss? You wouldn’t bat an eye when a bad performer leaves, but it’s like shooting yourself in the foot when the one who leaves is a high performer and potentially senior management material. Interactive dashboards enable you to drill down in your data and make these observations. You can either give everyone access to this dashboard, or provide the relevant drill downs for everyone to see.

HR Report: The Top HR Dashboard

An example of an HR dashboard with headcount. Click to enlarge.
For more examples, check the end of the article

Related: HR analytics case study

Hygiene factor

A final note before I show you an example of the HR report: HR reporting is often seen as a hygiene factor. This means that, like hygiene, solid reporting is not appreciated. However, when someone has bad hygiene (i.e. when mistakes slip into the reporting) people will notice and complain.

This emphasizes the importance of solid reporting. Accurate reporting is not a nice to have; it’s a must have. Without it, HR will quickly loose its credibility.

INostix’ Luk Smeyer wrote about this about HR reporting a few years ago. I think it captures this sentiment quite well.

Of course, every HR department should be (extremely) good at this ‘classical’ reporting level. No discussion. No debate. Just do it. This level should be the fully automated, highly effective, super fast, slicing-and-dicing, easy to read, well-structured, ‘just-click-on-the-button’ functionality in every organization.

Not every organization is at the ‘highly effective and super fast’ bit yet. However, every organization should be extremely good at doing HR reporting.

Characteristics of an HR report

There are several important metrics that need to be included in an HR report. Note that most of them are high level metrics as they provide an organizational overview.

  • Seniority
  • Sex: Common distinction often used for diversity purposes (see the example dashboard below)
  • Age: Age is becoming increasingly important with today’s aging workforce. Age is often a key focus point for organizations that want to innovate and reorganize.
  • Education level: Educational level should only be included when available and when relevant for the overarching goals of the organization. Otherwise it runs the risk of being a ‘vanity metric’ in the HR report.
  • Function type: A metric like function type or function clusters might help to distinguish different groups within the company. An example could be top management, middle management, production personnel and support staff.
  • FTE: A Full-Time Equivalent is the hours worked by one employee on a full-time basis. The number of FTE is often lower than number of total employees. This holds especially true if there are a lot of part-time workers present in the organization.
    FTE provides an accurate measure of the total workload in the organization. In addition, people who work less than 1 FTE can be considered part time workers.
  • Employees Active: This metrics represents the number of employees working at the organization.
  • Turnover: This metric represents the number and/or percentage of employees who left in the previous period.
  • New hires: This metric represents the number and/or percentage of new employees who joined the organization within the last year.
  • Absence: This metric represents the percentage of time that employees were absent in the previous period on average. Another representation of this number is the total days of absence per employee.
  • Cost of absence: This metric is not a standard metric but it can make the previously mentioned absence rate more tangible by attaching it to a financial number.
  • Cost of labor: Labor cost is the total amount of money that an organization pays to its workforce. This number includes employee benefits and payroll taxes. Cost of labor can be split up into direct or indirect costs. Direct costs are the labor costs associated with people who contribute to the primary process (an assembly line worker). Indirect costs cannot be traced to a specific level of production (a security person guarding the factory).
  • Training cost: Training cost represents the total amount that a company spends on training new hires and the existing workforce.
  • Recruitment cost: Total cost of recruitment efforts, often includes the costs of external agencies, advertisement and, sometimes, lost productivity. Entire books have been written on how to calculate this number. Read for more information here.
  • Time to fill: We’ve already touched upon time to fill. It’s the number of days between a position opening up and a candidate accepting that position. This metric will vary significantly between job types: software developers, big data analysts and highly qualified sales people are much harder to find than entry level marketers for example.

Related: The most important HR Metrics

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Other metrics that can be included are:

Indicative Metrics for HR report and HR dashboard

Personnel flow matrix

Simply capturing the amount of people who join the organization and who leave the organization is often insufficient as it doesn’t provide you with the full picture. A solution could be a personnel flow matrix. Such a matrix offers a great way of representing how many people joined, were promoted and left the company, and also how these numbers stack up.

HR Report: the Personnel flow

This somewhat complex-looking table is a perfect example of a personnel flow matrix. The rows represent the four personnel categories (A, B, C and D) and the changes between 2017 and 2018. For example, during the year 2017, 10 people went from a middle management position to a top management position.

The total employees on 1-1-2018 are displayed in the bottom row, while the total employees on 1-1-2017 are displayed in the rightmost column. The total turnover of 2017 is represented in the turnover column, and the promotions/demotions are represented in the matrix.

This overview helps to visualize organizational growth, turnover (this organization has low turnover in its production staff department, but all other departments struggle with turnover levels of well over 10%). It also visualizes its personnel development (note the 10% increase in top management, from 45 in 2017 to 50 in 2018).

On one hand, a table like this provides a great overview, on the other hand it helps to identify some key organizational problem areas.

Note: the personnel flow is based on Evers, 2014.

HR dashboard and HR report templates

In trying to find some sample HR reports, I came across the Valuing Your Talent initiative. They provide some great resources, including a case study on Capgemini which contained some excellent examples of HR dashboards.

Top HR Dashboard
HR Report: The Top HR Dashboard

HR dashboard: Sickness & Absence
HR report: Sickness and Absence Dashboard

HR dashboard: Talent 9 box grid
HR Report Template 1: The Talent 9 Box Grid

HR dashboard: DiversityHR Report: Diversity Dashboard

Related: A list of key HR metrics

HR reporting pitfalls

There are several pitfalls in regards to HR reporting. It’s important to address these as they will prevent you from getting trapped in a never-ending reporting cycle.

  • Automate your HR reporting: Don’t try to generate every report manually. This is highly inefficient and will drain the capacity of your HR data department. All reports described in this article can easily be automated and auto-generated.
  • Provide relevant information: Don’t try to make everyone happy. If you can make 80% of the people happy with 20% of the information, that may well be the best solution. Making an overly complicated dashboard and reporting on irrelevant data may lead to low engagement with the reports or dashboards and thus lower the impact.
  • Fix mistakes: HR data is dirty, and there will be mistakes in your HR report. Fix those mistakes in the source systems and make sure to help to create procedures that are beneficial in the accurate input of data.

HR reporting and HR dashboards are often a stepping stone for organizations that want to move towards HR analytics – and that’s why this subject is so important. Depending on the company that you work for, different data will be relevant. Good luck creating your HR report!


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  1. Amrita Reply

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