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Enable elements for import

There are four elements that can be imported via HR Import; Job assignmentsOrganisations, Positions, and Users. To import any data for these elements, they must be enabled. You may choose to enable one or more elements for import.

It is possible to import up to all four elements simultaneously, however the Position and Organisation frameworks must exist already on the system before it is possible to import the corresponding hierarchy structures.

To enable an element for import:

  1. Go to Site administration > HR Import > Elements > Manage elements.
  2. On the Manage elements page, enable the elements available for import.

  3. Select the Show/Hide (an eye) icon to enable an element.

  4. Select Settings to configure the settings for each enabled element.

You can also access each element's settings by going to Site administration > HR Import > Elements and selecting the name of the element you wish to configure settings for.

HR import? option

Once HR import is enabled for an element there will be a HR Import? option that will appear in the settings when creating a new instance of that enabled element (e.g. when creating a new organisation). Selecting the HR Import? option when creating a new job assignment, organisation, position, or user enables it to be updated or deleted via HR Import. 

The idnumber field for the new job assignment, organisation, position or user must have a value to enable it to be updated via the HR import, as well as having the HR Import? option enabled.

The HR Import? field can be manually ticked on a user by user basis (providing the user record has an ID number field) when editing a users account. You can also change the HR Import? field for user import by bulk user action (using the toggle HR import option). It is not possible to bulk change the job assignment HR Import? setting. 

Example of option to enable HR import.

Element settings 

There are some options that are common to each element, which are detailed below. Additional options are also available for the User element.


Choose which source method HR Import will use for importing data.

There are two options:

  • CSV: Records supplied in a Comma Separated Variable format specified in the CSV source settings.
  • External Database: Records provided by connecting to external database in the format specified in the External Database source settings.

Source contains all records

If the source contains all records i.e. a full file, Yes should be selected. If not i.e. the source only contains records that need to be created, updated or deleted (a partial file), No should be selected.

If No is selected, then the source must include the deleted field.

Empty string behaviour in CSV

When importing data from CSV files there is an option to determine the behaviour of empty strings.

  • Empty strings are ignored: Means that any empty field in the import will be ignored and existing data will be unchanged.
  • Empty strings erase existing data: Means that any empty field in the import will cause the existing data in that field to be erased.

Allowed HR Import actions

Choose the actions that are allowed for data being import. There are three sync actions that can be enabled.

  • Create: If enabled (checked) new items will be created for the specific element.

  • Update: If enabled (checked) existing items will be updated for the specific element. 

  • Delete: If enabled (checked) existing items will be deleted for the specific element (Organisation and Position elements only).

User element source options

Along with the options mentioned above, the User element contains these additional settings. 

Allow duplicate emailsChoose whether duplicate email addresses from the source are allowed.-
Default Email Address

If duplicate emails are allowed you can set a default email address that will be used when syncing users with a blank or invalid email. If duplicates are not allowed every user must have a unique email. If they do not, they will be skipped. 

Only import new users' password

If Yes is selected, passwords are only updated for new users. If No, all users' passwords are updated. 

Force password change for new usersIf Yes is selected, new users have their password set, but are forced to change it on first login. -
Reset passwords for undeleted usersIf Yes is selected and a password is not specified in the source, then undeleted users will have their passwords reset, will receive an email with the new password and will be forced to reset their password when first logging in. -

User element HR Import actions

Additionally to the setting mentioned above, you can choose which HR import actions to perform. You can allow the CSV file to CreateUpdate, and/or Delete (just like for the position or organisation elements). However, for the User element there are three different deletion option you can choose from (rather than just a tick box as for organisation and position). The deletion options are:  

  • Keep internal user: Do not delete users.
  • Suspend internal user: Suspend users. This will allow them to be reactivated and is recommended if you're not sure whether the user will be reactivated at any point.
  • Full delete internal user: Delete users.

When deleting a user, all associated data (including but not limited to the following) will be deleted and is not recoverable:

  • Appraisals where the user is in the learner role.
  • Grades.
  • Tags.
  • Roles.
  • Preferences.
  • User custom fields.
  • Private keys.
  • Customised pages.
  • Face-to-face signups.
  • Feedback 360 assignments and responses.
  • Position assignments.
  • Programs and certifications.
  • Goals.
  • Will be unenrolled from courses.
  • Will be unassigned from manager, appraiser and temporary manager positions.
  • Will be removed from audiences.
  • Will be removed from groups.
  • Messages will be marked as read.

If you wish to retain any data you may wish to consider suspending the user instead. 

Job assignment source options

Along with the options mentioned above, the User element contains these additional settings. 




Update ID numbers

If job assignment data is provided in the import, it will be linked to existing job assignment records. If linking to the user's first job assignment set this to Yes, only one job per user will be updated (this will be the one at the top in terms of sort order).

Otherwise set this to No, which mean the ID numbers themselves aren't updated by HR import. Instead it uses the ID numbers in the CSV file/external database to find the job assignments already on the site if they exist and update those.

If you choose the option, No then this will become the permanent options after your first import is performed. It will not be possible to change this and the option will be removed from the settings area.

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Related pages

The Totara Academy has a whole course dedicated to Creating users in Totara Learn. Here you can learn more on how to create users, see best practice, and give it a go yourself.

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