Big data in HR: 4 Keys for Going into Action

Big data in HR: 4 Keys for Going into Action

Big data. It’s a term that we hear everywhere, all the time. It’s invading, little by little, all spheres of business. In HR, the phenomenon is still relatively new, but it’s pointing toward a huge expansion.

Big data is arriving in all spheres of business. It’s already widely applied in marketing, where a significant impact on results has been clearly demonstrated. It’s how Amazon can use customer data to identify them and get them to checkout in just one click.

In the HR world, it’s a relatively new phenomenon that is only now starting to strengthen.

The reasons for big data growth in HR

Today, all industries are being disrupted. HR is at the heart of the revolution. One of the best demonstrations of this is the fact that each year, new jobs are appearing at a rate of 25%. With that speed, there is more and more movement to keep track of: 10% in turnover, 20% in talent migration, 25% in new positions, all to be dealt with every year.

Human resources thus needs to lean on data in order to confront numerous challenges. It can no longer take place on a purely intuitive level, but it rather needs to rely on facts in order to make the best possible decisions.

So how can we go from saying that to taking action on big data in HR?

Stop considering “human” and “data” as opposites

It is essential, prior to undertaking a real effort in HR big data, to fully understand the capacity of data to benefit intuition, human goals, and informed decision-making.

It allows you to see more, to see better, and most importantly to see differently. Data is able to reveal possible connections and to enlarge the field of vision for HR professionals.

Data is a support, not a goal

Simply taking the marketing and sales approach to big data and applying it to HR would be an easy mistake to make. That’s what would happen if we just asked the data to suggest what to do and then structure our actions accordingly. But in Human Resources, no amount or type of data can replace intuition. Data must aim at suggesting actions and possible alternatives, as well as how to justify them, without ever making decisions for the HR professional.

Data should be a light that illuminates a decision. By supplying a new way of envisioning the possibilities, a fresh look that is factual and indisputable, it can allow HR to concentrate on the human dimension.

Bring together a database that is large and usable

Following the principle of “Garbage in, garbage out,” any processes aimed at transformation can only produce quality results if the elements that are fed into them are quality as well.

This rule is key for understanding data in HR. We can break it down into three big principles.

Collect good data internally, and collect a lot of it. You have to centralize the data that is dispersed throughout the HR information systems, putting it into a single and normalized database: skills, evaluations, career paths, positions, hopes for advancement…

Aggregate a large amount of internal data, without trying to be exhaustive, but that allows you to arrive at a level that accurately represents the company’s realities and pathways.

Treat and normalize this data in order to have it be unified and comparable: for example, you must be able to identify positions that may be described differently but that are in fact the same.

Standardizing data means preemptively establishing precise criteria. Internal data allows you to better understand your business, its practices, its specificities and the errors that you don’t want to reproduce. Concentrating on the analysis of internal data creates meaning and is necessary for finding useful input on the company and its operations.

Don’t forget the HR KPIs

By now you will have understood that the entire interest of big data in HR rests on its ability to interpret the results obtained through various analytical pathways, and the conversion of these results into concrete actions. Thus it is essential to have metrics in place that measure how this factual approach allows you to advance your goals and objectives, in order to ensure its efficiency.

Certain indicators are generic, and can be used by any company (retention rate, recruitment costs, etc.). However, it is also critical to define success indicators that are unique to your project and your company’s context, whether that measures an improvement in internal mobility, in transversality, or in a reduction in turnover.