In Summary

The Wates Group was established in 1897 and is one of the leading private owned construction, development and property services companies in the UK. Wates employs almost 4,000 people, working with a range of clients and partners from across the public and private sectors.

Data Challenges

Wates has two HR systems - COINS, which is designed for the construction industry and is a finance tool with an HR and payroll module attached - and I-Trent, an HR and payroll software. Employee data is split across both which creates challenges from both data extraction and reporting perspectives.

The primary issue is that data is currently extracted manually from these separate systems, something Wates is keen to address. Another challenge is the difference in how data is interpreted because the HR and Finance functions evaluate data in different ways. Headcount is a prime example of this, as HR will include people on maternity leave or if a person is leaving the business, up until their leave date whereas finance will remove headcount earlier.

There are some assumptions and shared understandings that have yet to be agreed and communicated more broadly across the organisation. There is a need to be smarter – and share the story and assumptions that go with the data so it can be interpreted correctly.

There is a lot to be done at Wates from a data perspective, but there is a strong desire to make improvements and to build a data lake that can be used to make business decisions. The challenge is around how to access, extract and analyse that data.

Business Priorities

Wates has five top priorities as an organisation: profitability, sustainability, safety, diversity and inclusion (D&I) and quality. The data they are using within the HR function also feeds into other areas such as sustainability and profitability. For example, data is used to provide a better understanding of where resources are being wasted or to understand the true cost of initiatives which fall outside of standard processes, and the impact these have on the business. There is a strong focus on D&I, looking at gender and minority pay, candidate attraction and gathering relevant HR information to support business decisions.

Future Goals

There is a heavy focus on HR strategy. Looking at the next five years and what the HR function needs to do to support the business in achieving its key goals, the focus is on providing more information, better dashboards and improving their data lake. Historically, Wates used HR data in a transactional way, but they are shifting towards using the data to make strategic, long-term business decisions.

In order to reach this goal, the first steps are around data quality and governance. The HR team is looking at primary data, ensuring all mandatory records are collected and introducing some self-service elements. They are working on defining business rules and data governance so there is clarity around what each data point should look like. While building the data lake, they are ensuring that their records are continually updated and quality-controlled whilst remaining compliant.

Clearly communicating how data will be used to everyone in the organisation helps ensure it is more consistent at the point of collection. The business is also introducing measures to help improve data quality by interrogating key records in more detail.

Building Skills

Having invested in Power BI, a business analytics software by Microsoft, the organisation needs to understand the data it collects and holds, empowering team members to discover insights hidden in the data, and ultimately make better business decisions. Wates also needs people in the business with the required skillsets to be able to utilise the data fully, thereby maximising its value.

The ultimate goal is to get organised; record, store and utilise data more efficiently in order to secure future investment in the HR function so the business can move towards a true ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system further down the line.

For more HR data insights, you can also read our article, Modern HR: Making HR Data work for you.

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