HR reporting design: part 1 – Types of information

This is the first of a multi-part series on developing reporting systems for HR. Though the focus is on HR-related metrics many of the themes will apply to other reporting applications.

Too often HR Reporting is an afterthought. A system or process is developed and after implementation reporting is considered. As a result, much reporting is substandard; either not meeting the user needs and / or not being used.

Reporting design falls into our two key practice areas, involving both measurement & analytics and employee/user-centric design. Too often reporting is seen as a technical discipline yet for a report to be used, and useful, arguably the usability is the key component. This usability can be defined, measured and refined in a structured manner.

In an ideal world reporting would be designed at the same time as the process or system that it is illuminating. In many instances, however, data is being collected and reporting needs to be built upon this. The implication is that some valuable data may not be initially captured and a system or process change needed or external measurement system needed.  There are few systems that capture all the information typically needed for effective information (event-based systems rarely capture user experience for example) so integrating information from multiple systems is usually needed.

Information is typically needed in, and to support, five key areas:

  • Operational information – most HR reports usually focus on this. What did we do? How much did it cost? Its use is predominately to record historic activity, hence the need for…
  • Effectiveness information – to what extent did the activities help us achieve our business objectives? eg. What result can be associated with our spend on training?  Without making this explicit the natural conclusion is that all same-type activities are equally as effective, therefore the most appropriate is always the cheapest.
  • Why is this happening? Understanding what is driving the outcomes. As HR/Workforce analytics deals with groups of employees and their collective behaviour then understanding the drivers of their choices is essential, in an identical way that Marketing needs to understand the drivers of consumers buying decisions.
  • What is likely to happen in the future? A combination of forecasting trends and understanding the likely effects of changes, forward looking predictions give a range of outcomes that are likely based on historical information. They are most useful when scenarios can be built with user determined changes to assumptions.
  • What should we change to improve the activity? There are several parts to this. First from an activity perspective we should be able to understand constraints such as bottlenecks in the process. At a second level techniques used to help decision making under uncertainty can be integrated.


In the following articles we’ll address the 5 steps of a typical reporting design project: