Big Data in Human Resources is Great, but Not Everything

Joseph Stubblebine
Posted by

There's a growing trend in business intelligence and reliance on big data across all industries. When it comes to human resources, it can be difficult to see how the use of big data can assist in people management and recruiting. Data can tell a story that allows HR staff to identify issues, brainstorm solutions, and find the best candidates.


Big data involves looking at all of the available information in a streamlined, statistical manner. Human resource departments can use data already collected by an organization to assist each area, manager, or employee in meeting company goals. An HR analyst might consider productivity for each area over the past year; sudden drops in productivity within a single team or group could indicate an issue. Although big data alone can't pinpoint whether an issue actually exists, it does provide busy human resource departments with a launch point; sudden changes in trends might warrant an employee focus group or a meeting with the manager. HR may be able to help resolve challenges with communication, leadership styles, or employee misunderstandings.


In addition to existing data, many HR organizations are collecting information through employee surveys and focus groups. Anonymous surveys allow leadership to learn about employee perceptions and experiences through a medium that provides freedom of expression. Consider an annual general survey about employee engagement and motivation; you can also launch smaller targeted surveys to investigate areas that big data indicates are problematic.


Another use of big data within human resources involves following industry-wide trends. It's important to understand how employees are looking for jobs, how companies are finding the best candidates, and what average salaries are in your area. Using big data to construct realistic employment models helps you keep leadership in touch with what it takes to build the best possible staff. When leadership teams are on board with the need for competitive salaries and benefits, your job will be much easier. At the same time, you'll also need to use big data to keep everyone realistic so that the company isn't overpaying for labor.


Although big data offers an astounding amount of information for human resources personnel, it's important to remember that HR deals with people. Individual people cannot be relegated to columns of numbers or pie charts, and human resources experts should always look for the story behind the data. Making a decision about firing someone based solely on data could be a mistake; just because data indicates you need to hire someone at a certain salary doesn't mean you need to pay that exact amount. Mitigating circumstances always exist, and it's the job of human resources to figure out the human part of any equation.


Big data may give you a formula for increased production, but it only works if staff members buy into the improvement and put it into action. It's important to use big data and analytics where appropriate and to fall back on traditional people-management skills when personalized attention is required.


(Image courtesy of photoexplorer / 


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch