Take this job and analyze it: Big data comes to HR

Human resource departments have only begun to recognize the potential for unstructured information to answer some really difficult questions

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Big data in human resources

The integration of big data in human resources has become essential for companies that want to remain competitive.

According to data from a study published in the fall of 2013 by Forbes magazine, more than 60 percent of large companies invest in big data and analytical tools for HR management purposes. However, there are several different forms of analysis and ways such data can be used. Only four percent of companies, for example, said they are able to perform predictive analytics — forecasting future events — as they measured key performance factors such as retention, recruitment and compensation. Another 14 percent of companies said they perform extensive statistical analysis of their HR data. This means 82 percent of companies continue to produce HR reports using traditional operational criteria.

The essential value of big data

This situation will change dramatically over the next few years as HR data becomes more accessible, more sophisticated and contains a wealth of information that Canadian companies will be able to use not only for recruiting new employees, but also to stimulate productivity and strengthen the culture and performance of the organization.

Big data allows HR managers to implement practical improvements in real time and demonstrate the tangible value they bring to their organizations. Managers are able to make decisions based on facts and data on earnings, number of employees, hiring costs, turnover, skills and expertise. These insights can then be used to improve the process time in filling a position, internal mobility, employee performance, productivity, training and development, and a host of other factors.

Big data can ultimately be used to answer questions that previously required too many costly steps. HR managers can now examine a host of issues, such as identifying regions or institutions targeted for filling certain positions, learning and development programs that will have the greatest impact on improving productivity, or identifying the most talented people in a company who are most likely to leave, and why.

In all organizations, personnel changes take place for a variety of reasons. Traditional HR data was structured in a rigid framework to answer specific questions, but big data is updated quickly and at low cost, and can be used in a flexible way that is designed to be modified and to respond quickly to a variety of questions.

As the technology to manage talent becomes more sophisticated HR managers will need to fully exploit big data to identify staff who have the greatest impact on achieving the business objectives of their organization. Fortunately, with these diverse and powerful applications now available via cloud computing, the use of large data becomes accessible to all HR managers.

Tangible results

The benefits of big data

human capital are tangible. According to a study conducted by CEB, the human resources teams that use analytics improve the quality of their hiring and employee engagement by 19 percent. In addition, HR managers who efficiently use big data analytics tools reduce the length of the hiring process by by 25%. Through the use of big data a six-month period, meanwhile, Xerox says it has reduced the attrition rate of its call centre staff by 25 percent.

Big Data and the human factor

The challenge is not so much to get at big data but to choose the right tools to analyze it, and to have people who can use the tools well. In many organizations, it must also pass through several obstacles and areas of resistance. But these efforts are justified, because they allow managers to better solve the problems of human capital by helping them understand the real causes of HR problems.

The HR managers of the future must also know how to integrate the use of big data and the human factor. Of course, the role of managers remains very important in recruiting the best talent for their business area and its development. Efficient use of big data merely allows them to identify candidates who might fly under the radar of traditional hiring practices … and to answer many other questions.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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