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HR – The “Other” Way Big Data Works for Organizations

A recent CA Technologies study, “The State of Big Data Infrastructure: Benchmarking Global Big Data Users to Drive Future Performance” made the case for Big Data in the Enterprise. 90% of the organizations believed that their Big Data initiatives would help them target their customers better and nearly the same number expected an increase in revenue as a result. We’re here to tell you though that this may not be the biggest benefit from Big Data to the Enterprise. While marketing and sales is an obvious candidate for benefiting from Big Data, there is a good case to be made that HR will be where the most significant value is there to be had for those so inclined.

It’s a cliché repeated often by corporate leaders that their employees are their greatest assets and like most clichés the grain of truth there is that only great people can make a great company. Also consider that employee costs are among the most significant costs organizations have to bear, ranging from 15-30% in manufacturing organizations to 50% or higher in services based organizations. With such a potentially profound impact on both sides of the balance sheet initiatives that work here could be potentially transformational and Big Data is stepping up to the plate.

Hiring

Finding the right talent is difficult and wrong hiring decisions are expensive and cost precious time. However, enough empirical data is available today for organizations to be able to make better hiring decisions.

  • The way has been shown by companies like Google and Xerox already who have taken a Big Data approach to figuring out the suitability of a candidate for a role. They have done this by looking at data beyond just performance history and the duration of stay at a particular job. For instance, Xerox found a correlation between the commute an employee had to endure and their longevity at the company and factored it into their hiring decision.
  • Big Data has also been used by organizations to review some long-held assumptions about hiring – for instance that employees who changed jobs more frequently were just as high performing as those who didn’t. Better hiring decisions can result from a more valid consideration set.
  • Companies like Knack.it have approached collecting this data in an interesting fashion – through mobile based games. Based on how people play they have been able to gather data and then apply analytics to help define the kind of role they would be best suited for. Individuals seeking career advice as well as organizations evaluating candidates can use this data to ensure “right fit” hiring.
  • Online hiring portals have data from a sample size of hundreds of thousands of job postings – based on Analytics they are able to recommend to their customer organizations the best way to define a job and the best day and time to post it to maximize interest from the right kind of candidates.

Thanks to Big Data organizations can now factor in such considerations while making their hiring decisions and the impact is already showing.

Retention, Employee Engagement, and Performance Management

Once you have found and trained the right employee it becomes essential to retain them. Big Data and Analytics have found a role here too. A head start is possible considering that pretty much every action of the employee is recorded and hence is available for meaningful analysis.

  • Credit Suisse’s People Analytics group is a great example of the use of Big Data and Analytics techniques to improve HR Operations. Various factors that feed into attrition, like pay, performance, team managers and tenure, are studied for each employee and data-based predictions are made about the likelihood of an employee considering a career move. “At risk” employees are then offered choices that could help forestall such a move. Will Wolf, the Global Head of Talent Acquisition & Development at Credit Suisse says, ““The work has helped us determine, with ever-greater accuracy, an employee’s probability of quitting. If we know who is likely to be restless and why, we can help provide new avenues for them, for example. Even if they’re not interested in the roles our internal search function is offering, they’re blown away that we’re going out of our way to try to find them something interesting and new,“
  • Gallup estimates that employee engagement in the US today is at the lowest level since 2000. A disengaged employee is an unproductive employee and a potential flight risk. Most organizations of a reasonable size conduct employee satisfaction surveys and Big Data and Analytics can play a big role in helping organizations draw out meaningful insights from the results of those surveys. This is, somewhat surprisingly, not being done today. The Society for Human Resources Management says that while 80% of organizations do these surveys, most get overwhelmed by the data and don’t know how to interpret the results or what to do to improve. Those organizations that do apply Analytics are able to identify the metrics that matter to their specific business and to their specific employees and identify where things are going wrong early enough to be able to set into motion corrective actions.
  • Organizations are using Big Data and Analytics to help their employees perform better too. Analytics is being creatively applied to the workforce on parameters like where is their effort being expended. This is allowing organizations to identify how much time employees spend on their core tasks and how much on other activities like meetings, emails, and even social media. Reducing the distractions employees have to endure and allowing them more time to focus on the tasks that will deliver the most value to the organizations allows them to be more productive and to perform better.

It’s fair to say that this is still a relatively untapped area, organizations that have tasted success in their marketing and sales with Big Data initiatives would do well to shine that flashlight inwards. Our view is there are just as many, or more, benefits to be had within the organization too.

Gurkanwal Kalsi
With close to 15 years of experience, I have figured out the three things I love: Solving complex problems with the latest technology. Promoting entrepreneurialism in the team. It all starts with data.