Intervention Time – Coming to Terms with Cons of Excel Spreadsheets in HR

Facing the glass shattering truth that Excel Spreadsheets are not all encompassing

Let’s discuss the cons of Excel spreadsheets.

The humble Excel Spreadsheets have been a trusted partner of HR professionals across the globe since its advent in ‘70s where it graduated in form and brand nomenclature starting with the initial VisiCalc, SuperCalc to improvised Multiplan, Lotus 1-2-3 and the very monopolistic Microsoft Excel.

Whether it is attendance, payroll or leave management HR function gracefully progressed from paper records to excel sheets.

Did it work? Well it did for some time, but not when it became increasingly evident that it has major lacunas, a reality which is surprisingly easy to ignore.

Once the business operations expand, the use of spreadsheets becomes non-scalable

So where is the epicenter of the issue with spreadsheets? One of the major drawbacks of Excel sheets lies in the fact that it is not sustainable for HR tasks that require complex correlations and real time analysis.

Today a firm that uses Excel might have manageable employee strength and processes, but once the business operations expand, the use of spreadsheets becomes non-scalable.

The other disadvantages of relying exclusively on excel sheets include compromise on the privacy of data and possibility of letting the information fall in wrong hands.

Password protections don’t help as the files go through multiple hands at multiple levels. This makes any critical data highly prone to fraudulent use and worse even business losses.

Not to mention the pain in consolidation that also sometimes leads to inaccurate status reporting considering there are various teams or departments involved.

Some other factors that render excel sheets non- adaptable include its susceptibility to human errors, wastage of time in maintaining the sanctity of data, problems with management of massive databases and posing hindrance to quick decision making.

Understandably, one may overlook the limitations associated with spreadsheets owing to its attributes such as comfort, likeability and “known-for-a-long-time” feel.

But the fact that agile business environment requires something more advanced than Excel can’t be denied. That’s where technology like HR Software comes into picture.

Agile business environment requires something more advanced than Excel

Testimony to the views expressed above is echoed in several organizational case studies that had to suffer losses in millions due to Excel Errors.

The featured slide deck sums up prime cons of using Excel and stories of 4 organizations, which had to see their efforts go down the drain due to over-reliance on Excel spreadsheets.

We are sure you would be enlightened with the nuggets presented in the “Cons of Excel Spreadsheets in Human Resource Management” deck.

As always we at CakeHR would love to read your thoughts and feedback on this exciting topic.

Feel free to share them in our comments section! 🙂


Written By

Norberts Erts

HR Degen and Product Marketing Manager at Sage. Former Co-founder of HR software company CakeHR (acquired by The Sage Group plc in 2019). Keep a sharp eye on HR, marketing, business, finance, science, technology, and the connections between them.