How to Manage Big Data When it comes to Your Human Resources

By May 20, 2015 May 30th, 2016 No Comments

manage big dataIf you haven’t yet heard the term, “big data”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re a little behind. But fear not, it’s simple to catch up on this latest buzzword. For those who have been trapped under a rock or have “Outlander”ed their way from the past to the 21st century, here’s what it means: “big data” is broadly “a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis.”

But more than just being the new catch phrase of 2015, big data can actually have a genuine impact on each department and their business processes. Thanks to the explosion of strong business presences on social media and thereby, improved data aggregation methods, the collection and analysis of big data has become an industry all its own, and it’s an industry that’s growing rapidly. It’s currently estimated that the big data industry is “on pace to top $50 billion in 2017.”

So the (fifty) billion-dollar question is then: What does that mean for your company? Specifically, how does big data impact your organization in respect to your human resources?


Few aspects of human resources have been so dramatically impacted by big data as the recruiting process.

In a recent article from Mashable, James O’Brien highlights how big data has been a boon for HR: “Before the advent of big data in hiring, recruiters had their work cut out for them — even moreso than today.” He then goes on to highlight a number of ways big data is revolutionizing the hiring process, including:

  • Thanks to social media, especially LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, recruiters have a wealth of available information on prospective hires that previous generations of recruiters could only dream about. Rather than having to wade through a list of contacts and “put out feelers” for the right candidate, modern social networking essentially acts as a shopping mall of talent, making available a far greater number and variety of candidates.
  • Thanks to the digitalizing of data, companies are able to create and maintain their own internal, searchable databases of prospective candidates.

  • After potential candidates have been identified, big data is shaking up the selection process, as well. Companies are using tests and games to identify the best candidates for a given position and thereby reducing the attrition rate.

How effective are these techniques? Mr. O’Brien highlights Xerox as a recent example. By employing big data in their hiring process, Xerox was able to reduce attrition at its call centers by 20 percent.

Job Satisfaction and Employee Retention

According to Tata Consultancy Services, the single greatest benefit of integrating big data with HR is the potential to improve employee retention by identifying existing employees who may be likely to leave and finding ways to encourage them to stay.

Secondary benefits include determining which employees are contributing the most and most deserving of a raise, as well as measuring employee engagement. Another, often overlooked benefit is the ability to help employees by identifying others within the company who can act as mentors, all based on the available data about their skills and background.


In spite of these benefits, integrating big data and HR is not without challenges. Target, Home Depot, eBay, JP Morgan Chase, Evernote, Anthem and AOL are just a few of the high-profile companies that have experienced major and embarrassing security breaches. In some cases, such breaches have resulted in lawsuits or even Congressional scrutiny.

As big data becomes more and more integrated with HR, the security risks associated with recording and maintaining vast amounts of data likewise increases. This makes it vital for organizations to invest in the latest security software, keep up-to-date with the latest updates and security patches, as well as have well-trained IT personnel who can properly protect such vital data.

Another challenge associated with big data is the proper application of the info at hand. All the data in the world is useless unless an organization knows how to organize, categorize and extrapolate valuable trends and information from the data. This makes it vital to hire progressive HR personnel who will not only adopt, but embrace the changes big data is bringing. It will also involve investing in software that can help HR to properly manage the data that’s collected.

According to Karen Higginbottom in her recent article from Forbes, the Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015, Ready-Now Leaders: Meeting Tomorrows Business Challenges revealed that only 18% of the HR function surveyed saw themselves as performing in the most effective behaviour for HR as anticipators using data to predict talent gaps in advance and provide insight about how talent relates to business goals.

Without a doubt, big data is heralding a new era in the HR industry. As with any major change, there are bound to be challenges. With proper training and preparation, however, organizations can reap the benefits big data brings.