Data integrity is the consistency, accuracy, and validity of data throughout its useful life. Compromised data, in any context, is not useful- and can cause harm. There are numerous ways in which data integrity can be compromised.
Data integrity is critical to just about every aspect of a business, but when it comes to the human resources dept. it could easily be argued that every single piece of data is both mission-critical and sensitive. HR data not only contains identity information that would be valuable to thieves, but it also contains a wealth of information that is in the company’s best interest to protect.
Threats to HR data integrity may seem numerous, but we can break them down into a relatively small set of categories.
Ways data integrity can be compromised;
- Machine error
- Transcription/Human error
- Viruses and malware
- Hackers and/or unauthorized access
- Disasters; fire, flood, etc.
Why HR Data Integrity is Critical
HR data integrity should be viewed as non-negotiable for several reasons. Intact data integrity means searchability, recoverability, and the ability to trace information to its origin. Without the ability to reference the origin of a piece of information its validity cannot be confirmed.
Imagine making a key hire, or on-boarding a whole team of entry-level employees only to find out that someone’s credentials cannot be confirmed. Even worse, imagine this situation coming to a head at a critical moment during a major deal where an unverified negotiator turns out not to be who he says he is. It’s a disaster the likes of which might make a good script for a Michael J. Fox movie from the 80s, but it is potentially possible if HR data integrity is compromised.
More realistically, however, is a situation where payroll errors stack up and employees are not getting their correct pay. Looking at it from the employee’s point of view, imagine what it would be like to work for a major company for a decade or more, have a solid track record of performance and be ripe for promotion- only to have your performance data wiped out in a flood or cyber-attack. In a small firm, this would be less of a problem. But the larger the organization, the more towering and ominous these kinds of data losses become.
How to Maintain and Protect HR Data
Fortunately, there are effective ways to secure HR data integrity. These best practices will protect your HR data in almost any event if they are done regularly, completely, and are properly documented.
1. Audit Trail Implementation
Pertinent data lifecycle phases should be carefully managed using both manual and automated means.
2. Deploy Error Detection Software
Transcriptions errors and data corruption are next to impossible to track manually. Using error detection software will catch many problematic copy issues.
3. Limited System Access
By limiting access to key users, it becomes much easier to trace a data integrity loss to its origin.
4. Backup & Recovery Procedures
Data should be backed up regularly in a managed fashion and old data should be retained for at least six months in most cases for backup purposes.
5. Create a Quality Management System
SOP and logical controls can limit the opportunity for human error to enter into the process.
6. Protect the Logical & Physical Security of Systems
Control and storage points require physical security from malicious actors as well as from weather and the elements.
7. Train New Users in Person
New users should be trained in person and shadowed during early use and transcription incidences.
HR Data Integrity Protection Outsourcing
Finally, one of the most efficient ways to secure your data is to work with an HR data integrity specialist. Outsourcing your data integrity needs takes the burden off you to create a data integrity department and training new or in-house teams to develop these skills.