The Complexity of HR and Big Data

Companies of all sizes are becoming obsessed with Big Data, and who can blame them – Big Data is almost a $125 billion industry. It’s only natural that the analysis of large amounts of information is being applied to almost every industry, even the one that’s theoretically the most focused on people: Human Resources.

Behavioral innovations in Big Data

Human Resources is, in many companies, a division that wears multiple hats. HR is about attracting and maintaining top talent, meeting global work safety and quality standards, discovering opportunities to improve business practices, and keeping workers happy at all operational levels. The idea of incorporating large amounts of data to find patterns in this field of work is equally exciting and scary for many firms. Many are skeptical about the benefits of data analytics in an HR context, while others seek out data analysis to improve the hiring process.

For global firms, Big Data is the natural next step in accommodating thousands of employees and candidates around the world. It’s about bringing data into the very same problem solving scenarios that companies face with any other problem in a product flowchart, whether it’s with acquiring new talent, increasing the company’s brand recognition among college graduates, finding out what global trends are emerging for employee retention, or discovering opportunities to improve process management at the office. It can be an opportunity, like at Xerox, to reduce retention and minimize training costs. Big Data means less time spent being frustrated, and more time being productive and getting the respect employees deserve from their peers. In 2013, Google, decided to revamp its services in order to use more internal and global analytics to help make HR decisions and allow for more efficient candidate processing.

The fears of Big Data Human Resources

Some employees already have tenuous relationships with the traditional Human Resources and People Operations divisions of their companies. Nothing scares an employee more than being reduced to a number that gets a paycheck. This is why, at the core of Big Data in Human Resources, companies must offer the same humanity as employees expect from a traditional HR team. In fact, once companies have the tools that Big Data analytics can offer, employees should have even greater expectations in the quality of service HR teams can provide, especially if firms are looking to improve existing processes and methods. It also means improving the quality of its new hires, as Big Data is especially effective with managing candidates, discovering ways to improve a company’s reach, and implementing new emerging patterns with human interactions. This isn’t about machinery making algorithmic decisions about employees, but instead getting ahead on big trends in better employee management.

Balancing Big Data with human-level compassion

Companies currently considering the value Big Data can offer in their HR operations must find a way to balance that information with the human-level interactions that employees will continue to value. Big Data is essential for understanding the big picture of a global, competitive world, and firms should take advantage of that information. What’s important in order to effectively use this information is for those firms to be able to take grand strategies from Big Data and apply them at the one-on-one level with employees without devaluing their identity, opinions, and interests. Google, for example, doesn’t use data to hire or fire, but to gain insights into a candidate or better manage the candidacy process. For all companies, there’s a need to balance intelligent data with compassion and common sense.

If companies can discover improvements to existing organizational management methods through Big Data Analytics without losing sight of its core values and employee interests, then that company can truly succeed in implementing the big picture idea of analytics at the human level. Doing this isn’t easy, however - it requires both a gentle hand and the research to back up big decisions. Determining if this analytical route is best for a company depends on the scale of its operations, its global interest, global reach, and how much it expects to gain from such a grand, complex project in the long run.

About Zeynep Iyidil

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