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In 2010, I was on holidays in Atlanta, Georgia, USA with a friend. Neither of us had ever been there, but we rented a car and a GPS at the airport and started making our way to our hotel. Everything was going fine until the GPS told us to turn up a one-way street. The wrong way.
Now naturally, two ladies in another country on the wrong side of the road, we freaked out, but not as much as the guy in the other car!
Luckily, thanks to some quick thinking, we avoided an incident and ended up back in the normal flow of traffic. Until the GPS told us to turn left into another one-way street!
At that stage, we lost all faith in our GPS and winged it the rest of the way to the hotel.
When we got there (finally), I had a closer look at the rented GPS. It turned out that the thing hadn’t been updated since 2004! We were relying on data from six years ago to get us safely to our destination, data that didn’t take into account that many streets had been turned into one-way roads in that time to help manage traffic congestion.
On the way back to the airport, I bit the bullet, paid for some extra data and used Googlemaps on my phone. Things went much more smoothly. It even gave us a real-time warning of roadworks on the route we’d planned, and offered an option to go around them.
Your people data is like the GPS in your car. You rely on it to get you where you want to go, but it can only guide you based on the information it has.
People data needs to be managed well to give you the most value. The value of good people data isn’t some fuzzy intangible either – it’s cold hard cash. For example:
For many HR professionals, people data is something that lives on our personal computers (if we’re lucky). It’s stored on spreadsheets, or even in an actual filing cabinet. This makes it hard to see, but even harder to maintain.
Data is a strategic asset, but we need to treat it like a physical one. If it was a car, your business would likely have a plan for how and where it’s stored to keep it secure. You’d have a policy regarding who can access it and what it can be used for to create value for the organisation. There would be a regular maintenance plan to keep it running smoothly and a person in charge of making sure the plan is followed.
People data is another asset to your business, and maintaining that asset starts with good habits. Such as:
Ultimately, you want to know that your people data is something you can use to confidently make a business decision. Otherwise, you might find yourself driving up a one-way street.