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Solving the Vexing Problem of HR's 'Lost Data'


A business woman working on her laptop in an office.


​As an HR professional, you've likely been in a frustrating scenario like this: You desperately need to locate an important document, piece of data or report stored somewhere in your HR technology platforms. But either you find yourself striking out or the search takes so long you want to pull your hair out.

Whether they are seeking information stored in a core human capital management (HCM) platform, an applicant tracking system (ATS) or a learning management system (LMS)—or even Slack or Microsoft Teams—HR professionals often waste countless hours trying to track down what they need to conduct business. With data and documents increasingly scattered or siloed across a company's many technologies and apps, the inability to quickly find needed information has become a drain on productivity and efficiency.

Some HR leaders have taken the matter into their own hands by installing new software that makes the search for internal documents faster and more efficient. At Sift, a provider of digital trust and safety products in San Francisco, Director of Knowledge and Collaboration Keeley Sorokti uses a platform called Glean for such purposes.

Sorokti said multiple teams within the company's people function—including people operations, recruiting and workplace experience, among others—now use the platform to quickly find content from across the many applications they use every day. "Having just one place to search saves a lot of time every week," Sorokti said.

Glean searches the many apps and platforms an organization uses, including not just people data in HR systems but also resources on a company intranet, documents and chat messages on platforms like Slack or Teams, and much more. The tool indexes the information on those internal platforms in the form of an enterprise knowledge graph—much like what Google does with its search function on the Internet—allowing employees to search across the universe of internal knowledge from one central platform.

Jeannie Chun, a people business partner for Sift, said part of her work involves updating content, and Glean makes it easier to see all of the systems in the organization where relevant content is stored. "I also find new information and source folders and apps that I wouldn't have otherwise seen if I'd searched just one portal only," Chun said.

Sorokti said her company also uses Glean when onboarding new hires. "New employees no longer waste time trying to figure out where important resources are stored—they can just 'Glean' it to quickly find what they need," she explained.

Sift has found the people directory and company announcements features offered by Glean to be valuable. "The directory allows us to see what colleagues have been working on recently right from their profiles," she said. Such directories can have particular value for remote workers to keep them better connected to their in-office colleagues.

Glean also has analytics tools that give HR or learning leaders insight into the type of information being searched for most often. "If you're an HR leader and want to know areas where employees have knowledge gaps, or where you may not have enough documentation around things like remote-work policies or benefits, Glean can give you insights including what the top search terms are in your company," said Alan Yiu, head of product for Glean.

New Alliance Consolidates HR Cloud Tech

A new alliance between IBM and EY also is helping HR functions consolidate their technology platforms and people data in ways that create new efficiencies in searching for and using HR information in decision-making.

Called the Talent Center of Excellence (COE), the initiative is designed to help organizations tackle some of their biggest workplace challenges in the aftermath of the pandemic. A major focus of the IBM/EY alliance is to help companies better manage and integrate their cloud-based HR, payroll, mobility and other talent functions, bringing disparate HR data together to create an integrated "employee system of record" for the entire enterprise.

"We think by optimizing their HR cloud technologies, companies can improve the employee experience," said Liz Fealy, global deputy of EY's people advisory services practice. "The COE can help knit together multiple cloud-based systems to create a more consolidated model. The integrated data layer serves as one source of the truth to help support the employee experience."

Andi Britt, senior partner of talent and transformation services for IBM Consulting, said the COE also offers a series of microservices and artificial intelligence "accelerators" that companies can plug in to their existing HR and recruiting technology ecosystems. The accelerators include chatbots and virtual assistants that can answer standard HR-related queries from employees and tools that automate the sourcing and screening of job candidates.

In addition to the new center of excellence, IBM also offers what's called its "Pak for Data" solution that allows HR teams to access, correlate and analyze data from multiple HR technology platforms without having to extract or transfer data between those systems. The idea is to allow HR users to spend less time trying to locate needed data and more time using it effectively.

"The solution can read across different platforms like an HCM, a finance system, an ATS, an LMS or a performance management system like it's all a data fabric," Britt said. "There's no need to move or extract data. The tool can just pull in the relevant information from different HR systems when you need it. The solution hovers over the top of databases and data warehouses and you can reach in, access what you need, and conduct your needed review or analysis."

Dave Zielinski is principal of Skiwood Communications, a business writing and editing company in Minneapolis.

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