What is HR Data Governance?

What is data governance? 

When it comes to financial or customer data, organisations have matured process in terms of data governance and there is usually a good understanding within the function on what it means and the outcome of good data governance program. When it comes to HR data governance, the situation is a bit different, the concept still is not very well understood and hence I constantly hear different interpretation of 'what data governance is' from HR leaders.

"Data governance is a set of practices and processes that will enable organisations to manage data assets in a proactive way to achieve strategic business objectives.  It is a means to manage complex integration between people, process and technology with appropriate governance to ensure data within an enterprise is trustworthy and consistent for decision making and does not get misused."

In this era where we are seeing new data privacy regulations like GDPR, Russian Data localisation law, etc, data governance is becoming very important. In the context of HR, having a data governance approach is critical considering HR deals with PII (Personally Identifiable Information) of employees and candidates everyday.

What is HR data governance?

"In order to make good people decisions consistently organisations need 'good people data' and we can't create 'good data' with a magic wand, this requires a structured HR data governance approach. A successful HR data governance program requires true business committment!"

HR Data Governance ensures organisation have good people data quality that is trusted, secured and reliable to make data driven decisions. Below is an HR data governance framework to addresses some of the key questions like - how will HR data governance program addresses key business objectives / challenges? What does data quality means in the context of people data? What organisation structure, processes, technology and culture needs to be considered while building a data governance framework?

HR data governance framework


Lets have a look at the framework in more detail.

Vision & Mission
HR data governance vision and mission statement should always cover the key business objectives that better data can solve and key data challenges that is stopping the organisation  from being more efficient.  Strategic planning exercise may be deployed to identify key objectives of an HR data governance program. It is important to start with 'Just enough' data governance. Answer to these two key question will help to understand the need in  detail - 1) What is 'Just enough' data HR data governance and what it looks like for your organisation? 2) What is data quality in the context of your organisation?

What is 'Just enough' HR data governance?
There are many different data types within HR systems, it is important to understand which data needs to be managed & governed closely and what needs to be left alone. It is always critical to start with 'Just enough' data governance before expanding to wider data types. Below diagram shows the data types and the importance of each data type with examples in the context of HR. The more HR function shares data with other functions and outside of the organisations, the more the need to have a structured data governance framework. The more matured the HR data governance program is, the more data types to be added into the list of governed data items.

Just enough HR data governance




What is HR data quality?
Data quality has multiple dimensions as shown below. It is critical to understand what data is mastered in the HR system and what processes needs to be put in place to ensure data quality is 'good enough', but to get there it is important to understand what is your current data quality in the context of accuracy, integrity, timeliness, etc. in each of the HR data domaind (personal data, recruitment data, training data, etc.)
HR data quality






Lets not look at the key pillars of the HR data governance strategy

HR Data Organisation 

When it comes to data governance, it is important to understand 6 key roles within the data management space, these roles are different but often used in a confusing way, especially the data stewardship role. Deploying the right people with right roles and responsibility is critical to success!
  1. Data Owner owns the data for their specific domain, these could be HR COE head or HR director. Data owners have the authority to change data definition, rules/policy based on business needs.
  2. Data Steward helps to define the rules, definition and understand the underlying business processes in detail and are good with data analytics. Data stewards partner with Data owners and  sits within HR department
  3. Data Custodian are the IT owner of the data and have the technical knowledge to ensure data is protected and profiled correctly in the system. This role sits within IT department
  4. Data Governance Lead owns the data policy and defines data management processes within the organisation. Provides governance and runs data governance council. Usually this role sits within HR or within enterprise data governance team.
  5. Data Privacy Officer owns the data privacy policies and drive all the data privacy assessment for HR data and processes, usually sits within HR data governance team or with the enterprise data privacy office.
  6. Data Admin are those who enter data into the system and are part of day to day operation like HR administration or shares services agents.
HR data governance roles


How to deploy data stewardship in an organisation is a key decision to take when building an effective HR data governance model - Data Stewardship by Business Processes (based on 5 data stewardship model discussed in SaS whitepaper) works best for HR based on my experience. Below is the HR data stewardship model by HR process

HR data stewardship


HR Data Management Process
HR data governance team should be implementing best practices for managing data in all the processes dealing with data. Process dealing with data and what are the key questions that the process needs to address is shown below in a diagram, If any of the processes is flawed, there will be data quality issues, so processes needs to be managed for all HR business processes. 

HR data management processes


Data Technology

HR data governance program should consider the need for a 'single source of truth' for all people related data in the organisation and to ensure that the master source is being acknowledged through out the organisation. It is important to develp technology strategy to get to a common standard or single source of truth or data warehouse for HR data and also to enable awareness within HR or employees to ensure they do not create their own local database to manage people data, it is risky from a privacy perspective and also will lead to wrong decisions being made at organisation level due to poor data quality at the 'single source of truth' and the impact of making wrong talent decision means loss of business and cost. Below are some of the data technologies to be considered and to be successful, it is important to have a robust enterprise level data architecture to ensure people data is utilised to its fullest and necessary 'hook' or 'sense of urgency' is created in the data architecture to ensure 'single source of truth' is always kept up-to-date.

HR Data technology





Data Culture 

Creating a culture of data driven culture requires building data and analytics capabilities within HR function and among business managers. It is critical to ensure Line managers capability is given due importance before providing them visibility to sensitive data like talent rating, etc. Data stewardship is something that needs to be embraced by every employee as the organisation evolve, so building data steward community with wider business participation is something to consider when organisation matures to add singificant business value. Also, importance of data privacy and how to deal with PII data should be something every employee should know and to be incorporated in to the mandatory training program for all employees. Below is data driven culture maturity model.
Data driven culture


HR Data Measures & Governance

All the above we discussed should be underpinned by a strong foundation of measures, policies and governance to ensure all the different component work in synergy to achieve the vision and mission of HR data governance program.
1) Deploying an HR data governance scorecard & HR data quality scorecard 
2) well documented policies (data privacy policy, access control,  etc.) and 
3) deploying Data governance council / Data steering committee with executive sponsor are all key to ensure HR data governance program is successful.

Data privacy policy here is a hot topic, HR needs to work closely with the enterprise privacy office to ensure HR practices are GDPR compliant and also compliant with local regulations. 

Below is an example of HR data governance scorecard,  Data Quality scorecard and governance forums that needs to be in place in order to have a successful HR data program

HR Data governance scorecard
HR data quality Scorecard
HR data governance forums


HR department is still understanding more about data governance, so be sure to understand where you stand in the maturity model and where you want to be!

HR Analytics was purposefully not covered here, this will be covered as a separate topic as the focus of this blog is about data quality which is a pre requiste for HR analytics. 


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