How Big Data Is Changing HR

One of the most revolutionary trends technology has brought to the field of human resources is the development of powerful software that can crunch enormous amounts of data. Through the use of “Big Data,” HR departments can analyze the vast stores of information they possess and identify patterns in employee recruitment, performance and retention that can provide valuable insights into what’s happened in the past — and even make predictions about what’s likely to happen in the future.

By basing their predictions on hard data instead of instinct or casual observation, HR professionals can discover insights they may never have found through conventional means, and make confident decisions backed by solid evidence.

Using Big Data is “seeing beyond the obvious,” says Luciano Pesci, CEO of Emperitas, a Utah tech company that builds customized business information tools and predictive analytics, and performs market research. “Big Data presents far more than a way to handle more observations. It means more information than we have ever had before, more things that help us make sense of the world, which translates into better models and better predictions.”

Taking the information you have and mining it for valuable business knowledge can change the way your HR department approaches employee management. This white paper will further explain what you need to know about Big Data and HR.

Improve Hiring Processes and Outcomes

According to recent research by Deloitte, less than 15 percent of companies use a talent-analytics program. Organizations that harness the power of Big Data can help position themselves for greater success in finding and recruiting top talent.

“Traditionally, hiring managers have relied on self-reported candidate ‘data’ in the form of work history and GPA to narrow down their pool of applicants into a manageable list of candidates for interviewing,” says Rusty Frioux, founder and managing principal at analytics consultancy DataClear. While automated resume-screening tools and candidate searches are a part of that process, using Big Data in talent acquisition makes the process easier and more strategic.

“The real revolution is in expanding our hiring processes to include things like candidate screening questionnaires and selection tools that are tailored to find candidates with the right combination of hard and soft skills that will allow them to both do the job at hand and to fit into the organization’s culture,” Frioux says. This means using hard data from screening tools to assess a candidate’s potential, rather than relying on gut instinct.

“It’s allowing employers to better understand what makes a great employee at their firm, and lets them target more people like that as they hire,” says Adam Grealish, co-founder of, a job-recommendation engine that uses advanced statistics and Big Data to match people with jobs.

It’s not just employers who are benefiting: “On the job-seeker side, the same is true. Job seekers can harness the analytic power of Big Data to take much of the work out of the job search,” Grealish says.

Track Performance and Foster Best Practices

Most companies keep track of employee and departmental performance levels over time. Using the principles of Big Data, they can cross-reference performance with data points such as hire dates, onboarding procedures, training schedules and engagement levels to discover the best way to set an employee up for success.

Chances are, you’re already using Big Data to evaluate employee performance; you just might not know it. Mike Salem, CEO of Vorex, says organizations glean a large amount of data that can help them in their sales and prospecting, and store it in their customer-relationship-management systems, or CRMs. This data includes information about clients and prospects, including “company name and full information, with the right contact people and decision makers within the company and social media information that can help in better prospecting of a potential client” as well as historical records of interactions and saved history of projects.

Integrating that data with your sales team’s performance assessments can provide insights into why successful salespeople are performing well and less successful ones are lagging behind. Identifying the patterns that deliver success for your business can help you put the right employees into the situations necessary to take advantage of every opportunity.

Using Big Data to track performance doesn’t just tell you what happened and when it happened — depending on the data you integrate, it can also give you the why and the how. Integrating your human resources information system with your CRM and other data-tracking software will put you in a position to reap the benefits of Big Data.

Understand Attrition and Improve Retention

Once you’ve hired and trained all these excellent candidates, the trick is keeping them in your organization for the long haul. As the economy continues to improve and the war for talent picks up, you will need to work harder to keep hold of the high performers you have on staff.

Big Data principles can help you track signs of disengagement among your employees and identify causes of dissatisfaction or reasons people leave to work elsewhere. Do disengaged employees take increasingly more sick days? Do engaged employees stay longer? These kinds of deep insights make talent management easier and more effective.

“The ready availability of data about current employees, their satisfaction and performance can help create our personnel-selection model,” Frioux says. This, in turn, can help senior managers improve their own performance, as they become used to using evidence to confirm their instincts before making business decisions.

Develop Effective Benefits Packages

Using Big Data models can help HR departments hone their benefits strategies. By tracking which benefits employees use, when they use them, and for how long, you can put together a customized benefits package that your employees will value. And it could help you save money as well. According to a study by McKinsey & Co., applying Big Data tactics to health care benefits alone could save U.S. companies up to $450 billion.

Using Big Data with health plans, in particular, can be a little more challenging, as participants may find such information-mining efforts intrusive, but it’s possible to explore what’s being used without touching on identifying information. Some of the insights can come through the digitization of behavior, Pesci says. “For example, if you monitor your employees’ Web traffic, you can learn the keywords they search just before they are taking sick days.” This can help you prepare for an illness spreading through the office.

The Power of Predictive Analytics

Using analytics on Big Data can provide a lot of information, but where does the predictive part come in? While managers, recruiters and others at your organization may have been making decisions from the gut, predictive-analytics tactics can provide evidence and insights to support business decisions you want to make.

The first steps in taking advantage of Big Data are assembling your data, finding out what you know and deciding what you’d like to know. After identifying what you’re looking for, using analytics tactics on your data makes finding that information much easier, Grealish says.

“Large amounts of unstructured and semi-structured data can now be parsed and analyzed to bring serious insights into the types of people a company is hiring,” he says. Once you have established baselines from the information you have, your organization may be able to make evidence-based predictions about how people will perform, how engaged they will be and what might inspire them to stay.

These insights can be based on almost anything you have measurable data for. “Don’t ignore the human equation of various personalities, the actual environment, the context, the fitness level of task to talent matching or different management styles,” Grealish says. With Big Data, he says, “the answers are only limited to your imagination — because everything else is in the data.”


The answers Big Data can provide HR are astounding, and limited only by the data you collect and the hypotheses you can come up with. To make the most of your Big Data, consider investing in software and professional analytics assistance to crunch the data effectively and deliver understandable actionable results.

The time is now for forward-thinking HR departments to find out what Big Data can do for their organizations. By harnessing Big Data, HR can use the information they have to learn more and make strategic evidence-based decisions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *