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A Better Way to Track International Employee Data in 2021 and Beyond

Bridge Team Member

Immigration requires a lot of data points and documentation, often these data points are specific to each employee and can apply to dynamic date ranges that are critical to stay on top of. Additionally, management often wants to leverage the data to help make important business decisions. So how are successful People teams managing their immigration programs?

Hint: it’s not a spreadsheet.

The limitations of spreadsheets

And, at one time, a spreadsheet was one of the most innovative ways to track a variety of types of information, including employee data, but that time is long past. For modern people teams where dynamic situations are a constant, having a strong grasp on their People data to unlock key insights on-demand is critical to thriving in the modern workplace. 

There are so many better options available nowadays and HR functions that rely on spreadsheets for tracking immigration data are at a distinct disadvantage.

Technical difficulties 

Spreadsheets are not typically stored in the cloud so technical issues are almost a given. The IT department may be able to back up your data or retrieve it in the event of a crash. But the spreadsheet may need to be repaired or rebuilt and critical data can be permanently lost. It is just not an efficient, strategic method of managing employee data.

The consequences of losing employee data and time-sensitive immigration information are significant. Not only would re-entering data be time-consuming for both People teams and the employees, but it could also result in unnecessary compliance risks and additional penalties or fees.

In contrast, a study by PwC reports that, “Cloud users are more likely to report gains in productivity, improved employee experience and better workforce insights compared to those using on-premise solutions.”

Siloed Data

Spreadsheets generally can’t be widely shared without risking corruption of the data. All of the ways to share it – by email, on the intranet, or shared drives, are clunky and inefficient. The more people who have access to it, the greater the probability of incorrect data. This is especially problematic when the timeliness and accuracy of data is critical.

Not really self-service

Employee self-service is one of the most efficient tools at HR’s disposal. Instead of multiple communications back and forth about data that employees want to change, they can view it, manage it, and change it at will.

But employees are unlikely to have access to a spreadsheet to input their critical information because spreadsheets aren’t dynamic documents. So, someone (HR) is responsible to input and manage all relevant data and take time to share relevant information whenever requested.

Within short order, someone is designated the keeper of the spreadsheet which becomes a significant part of their job instead of focusing on value-added HR work.

Unreliable Data

Mistakes in People data are not always identified quickly enough to prevent further errors. Busy HR departments have to juggle man competing priorities so small errors quickly add to the already overburdened workload. Manual data entry errors might often go unnoticed until it has snowballed into a major problem.

Inconsistent Reporting

Spreadsheet reports are not very user-friendly. Readers generally have to have some knowledge of spreadsheets, charts, or graphs in order to understand how to read them and what the information means. Unfortunately each team member might have a unique way to display the data making it difficult to aggregate reports or establish a consistent method for the organization. 

As team members move on, you’ll often pass their files off and the original records, formulas, and customizations are lost. While you may be able to make sense of the data or try recreating the formulas, that becomes precious time wasted on administrative tasks rather than working with employees to move cases forward. 

There has to be a better way

In the early days of payroll, recruiting, and HR software apps, many companies considered that kind of technology as an unnecessary luxury. Spreadsheets and databases were a great new way to collect and store employee data in one place.

But the pace of new ways of working moves quickly. With the significant challenges facing People teams in the past few years, HR software isn’t a luxury anymore; it’s a business imperative. Modern teams are often already juggling tools to manage employee data, recruitment, engagement, collaboration, performance, and company socials - so why not immigration?

HR has moved to a strategic position in the organization and needs to work smarter because working harder isn’t an option.

But before you ditch your spreadsheets…

Often it’s nice to think the grass will be greener, and despite the numerous limitation of a spreadsheet, they are quite flexible and customizable in the hands of a capable person. Before you migrate to a cloud-based solution or consider other software solutions, you may want to consider what type of reports and data you want access to. Most people operations teams will have a standard set of immigration KPIs or data points that roll up to their larger HR reporting tools. Focusing on a few key metrics will help ensure your data migration is successful and more easily adopted. 

  • % of applications filed on time, historic RFE rates, denial rates
  • Compliance documents centralized and audited regularly (PAF and I-9s) 
  • Employee sponsorship plans, visa history, and max-out dates 
  • Employee travel, employee dependents information 
  • Immigration forecasts and formulas for budget projects

We’re experiencing a dramatic shift in the way companies operate due to the global pandemic, more than ever it has become important for teams to have virtual tools to allow them to collaborate, communicate, and perform key duties. While spreadsheets on-premise and infinitely customizable, it is time to look into secure, customizable and seamless ways to manage and also report on your data so you can start to optimize your immigration program


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