Why HR leaders need to consciously uncouple from spreadsheets

We get it, we’ve all been there. Spreadsheets are familiar but they’re holding your business back and reducing productivity. Here are some of the compelling reasons to make Excel your Ex.

John Crowley • 
Why HR leaders need to consciously uncouple from spreadsheets

You’re in a toxic relationship.  

We get it, we’ve all been there. Spreadsheets are familiar, you know how it works and you’ve already got all your information embedded in it, it would be a chore to leave and what if you regret investing yourself in something new?  

You’re not alone, most HR leaders grew up with spreadsheets, it’s as familiar to them as Gameboys and CDs.  

But whilst it may seem easier in the short-term to limp along with the same old ’80s technology, than to re-integrate with a more efficient system, a system that you have to set up and learn how to use, the costs of the transition are vastly outweighed by the gains. 

Here are some of the reasons why you should be amongst the increasing number of businesses migrating away from traditional spreadsheets.   

1. Spreadsheets are frighteningly vulnerable to mistakes and easily corrupted 

Not a reassuring trait in any partner. 

Have you ever made a mistake in a spreadsheet and thought, “Phew, good job I noticed that”. Well, what didn’t you catch?  

Maybe we shouldn’t pull on that thread. But if you want to feel better about accidentally paying Linda double-time for her week in Benidorm with the gorgeous Raul, don’t worry, it’s happened to the world’s brightest and best… 

Two of the world’s leading economists, Professor Carmen Reinhart and the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Ken Rogoff, published a paper that was used by governments world-over to inform economic policy.  

Economics student Thomas Herndon later discovered the numbers didn’t add up. Turns out, they’d made a mistake in the Excel document, invalidating their findings. Whoopsy daisy.  

MI5 mistakenly bugged more than 1,000 phones because of a spreadsheet error. 

London Olympics sold double the number of synchronised swimming tickets by accidentally typing ‘2’ instead of ‘1’.  

Barclays hid cells instead of deleting them, accidentally buying 179 more contract assets from Lehman Brothers than they intended.  

When converted to PDF, the cells appeared again, leaving a red-faced Barclays to suck-up the undisclosed losses.  

JP Morgan Chase lost over $6 billion after an spreadsheet copy-and-paste mistake made by an overstretched trader.  

The format of spreadsheets makes it very easy to miss mistakes. And they rely heavily on manual entries, which vastly increases the margin for human error.  

In addition to this, they’re often used by numerous people and shared by email, increasing the chances of corruption.  

2. Spreadsheets are inefficient  

This is the main reason you need to tell spreadsheets to take a hike. Manually entering all your information into spreadsheets is laborious and time-consuming.  

Often the same values need to be cross-pollinated into multiple spreadsheets. And that’s after sifting through to find that specific information in the first place.   

HR data needs to be updated constantly, with changes to personal information, new starters, leavers, time off, and so on.  

It all needs recording and it’s easy to fall behind and overlook something important, especially within a system that was not designed from inception to support complex multi-layered use. 

Having separate spreadsheets for each process between different departments seriously stifles progression. There is no way to spot trends and make connections.  

Turns out productivity plummets every time Linda goes away. We didn’t notice though and now we might lose her to Raul.  

Automating your processes with Human Resources software such as SenseHR, reduces the odds of an error occurring.  

This next-gen software can automate tasks such as payroll, onboarding, benefits, and records management, whilst connecting and analysing all of the data, drastically streamlining processes into one secure and easy-to-use library. 

All your HR data – from HR policies to onboarding, can be centralised, 

improving efficiency and carrying the load of boring, repetitive tasks for people managers so that they can focus on more fulfilling, value-adding work.  

With custom alerts and reminders, it’s like having a personal assistant that you can always rely on to have your back and keep you up to date.  

The life of an HR leader is often fragmented with ever-changing thought notes. ‘Must remember to try and get Frank the 18th off for his little boys’ school play’, ‘This is the last day I’ve got to get that performance appraisal done for Linda before she gets back’ and ‘Where’s Kevin? I need to chase him up for a fit note before he clocks on’.  

This is often exacerbated by being the human-nexus-point who has access to and understands the spreadsheet system.  

People have to come to you for things they could easily resolve themselves. Linda’s manager Tom wants to know “When’s Linda back from Benidorm and how many days of holiday does she have left this year”? 

The data has to be found and shared, possibly in an extracted form for email, according to its pertinence and confidentiality.  

This kind of chore is tedious for HR and Tom is frustrated by having to make a nuisance of himself and wait for an answer.  

How much easier would it be to have a human resources management system that supported multi-tasking and enabled everybody to have their own self-service login according to their roles?  

They could help themselves and it would reduce a lot of the HR admin interruptions. 

Interruptions are not trivial. Evidence is in that it takes around 25 minutes on average to return to the original task after an interruption. “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” researcher in Human-Computer Interaction, Gloria Mark, wrote in the New York Times.  

3. Spreadsheets are insecure  

Spreadsheets live on your computer, access to them is often exchanged to update and share information, and they are emailed around.  

If you forget to password protect, encrypt the file, or edit personal information out, they can lead to a data protection breach.    

4. Spreadsheets are BORING 

Having annually forced myself, on pain of prison and penalties, to spend days on end in these data graveyards, calculating my taxes using Excel, I feel very passionately about this one.  

It’s no wonder people are so prone to making mistakes when using spreadsheets.  

Trying to engage with what may as well be a sea of binary code, swimming before the eyes in a black and white grid of literal ‘cells’ can be excruciatingly dull.  

You deserve better. Luckily for you, better is here. You can have a cost-effective, dynamic HR system that is a nice place to be.  

How about one that you can customise with your own company branding or colour theme? With each of your people able to personalise their own space within that home? Done.     

If you’re still perturbed about the time and energy that might be required to make positive changes, SenseHR facilitates native third-party integrations so you can have the best of both worlds and take your time to move on.  

Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co certainly are. They’re making their transition from spreadsheets over the course of two years, task by task.  

Now, I don’t want to appear hectoring, I’m not your mother, but in this case, I do happen to know what’s best for you and it’s not spreadsheets.  

Kick spreadsheets from your bedsheets and make excel your ex.