Chichester College has submitted an annual workforce data return for many years. Data is submitted through the SIR (Staff Individualised Records) Data Insights service, which is run by the Education and Training Foundation on behalf of government. Data is then aggregated and analysed to show patterns and trends in the make-up of the sector workforce.
We interviewed Sara Barrett, HR Data/Project Co-ordinator, who is responsible for collecting and submitting SIR data at Chichester, to find out why the college submits data and what the data is used for. The college merged with Central Sussex College (now Crawley College) in 2017 and Sara’s team was responsible for consolidating HR systems and producing one overall SIR return. Overall the group now has around 1,700 staff and serves around 25,000 students.
Why does Chichester submit an annual workforce data return?
We see the value of benchmarking data to us and to the wider sector. We have provided SIR data to the Education and Training Foundation for the past few years and we also provide staff data for the Association of Colleges and the University and College Union.
It’s good to see how we compare to benchmarks in the sector so we need to contribute to the evidence base for those benchmarks. I know this is important, it’s my responsibility and I take a pride in it.
How do you collect your data?
We use our HR system, World Service, supplied by Software for People, to collect the data that is needed for the SIR return. The system is set to capture the data fields that are needed for the SIR. If there is an SIR code on, we make sure that the data field is completed.
With more transactions taking place online, like recruitment applications for example, it makes it easier to capture and transfer data into the HR system. The easiest way to collect and submit SIR data is using the HR system.
We put a lot of effort into making sure that we get the data right when it’s entered into the system. The HR team are trained in how to put the data in and we have process notes.
Have you tried different approaches to collecting SIR data?
We used to piece the data together from different sources manually, using a spreadsheet, which was more work. We decided to put the effort into capturing the data needed through our HR system and it’s paid off. Now we just have to hit a button to export the SIR data which is ready to upload into the SIR system.
What has been your experience of the current SIR approach?
The SIR system is great. When we upload our data file we can see straight away what the errors are. We then fix the errors in our HR system so we’re correcting the data at source.
The data collection and submission gets easier each year. The help desk is very good. I have always had an immediate response when I’ve used the help desk.
How are you using the dashboards and the benchmark data?
The dashboards provide a nice clear picture. In August every year we have to provide stats for the HR Committee and for the Governors, so we will be using the dashboards and benchmark data at that point.
Do you have any tips for other HR colleagues looking at doing an SIR return?
You can never start too early! It’s worth looking at the SIR data spec now to see what fields are required and to decide on how you are going to collate all the data and how you will make sure that the data going in to your SIR return is clean and accurate.
You need to get everyone on board – the people who are entering the data in the first place – so they understand what happens to the data and why it is needed.