To succeed with Big Data in HR – start small!

HR Big Data

Big data is a big thing. It promises to revolutionize the way we do business. It also promises to change the face of HR. Big Data will firmly put HR at the table . Or that is the promise at least. But as with anything, it is easy to promise and quite harder to deliver. This certainly seems to be the case with HR Big Data.

My experience is that most companies are struggling with Big Data – getting all the systems to talk together, to clean the data, to get the legal issues sorted, to understand what data to collect, to get the right master data, to avoid bad data and so on. With exception of a few leading companies, most are not even close to getting the basics right.

I attended an excellent conference in London on HR Data last week and was given some fantastic stories and cases from some of the leading thinkers and companies on how to work with Workforce Analytics and HR Big Data. It was really interesting to hear what can be done and how it is applied by the best. But at the same time I was thinking about the realities of most companies and the issues they face.

Big Data offers HR an opportunity to create real insights and to make better HR decisions, which in turn can create real (shareholder) value . HR must not let this opportunity pass it by. At the same time, to the large group of companies who are just now embarking on the journey of Big Data in HR my advise is; approach Big Data in much the same way as you would do if you were to eat an elephant (one bite at a time); one small step at a time. Don’t be too blinded by the opportunities presented by smart software vendors or best in class analytics companies such as Google and IBM. Instead start small.

What does ‘start small’ mean in practice? It means you should

  • clean your data – all credibility is lost if the data is not correct and accepted
  • create a seamless interface between your different data bases – hard but necessary, manually copying and pasting between sources will create mistakes, delays and complicate the process
  • make simple analysis – start with trends and simple correlations
  • share the initial findings, highlight how this leads to better HR decisions and imply the value of these better HR activities
  • collect your learning from the process to take a slightly bigger step next time around

In many ways, workforce analytics and Big Data is not hard. It is actually not rocket science. But starting on predictive analytics before you have got the basics right and before you have earned the trust of the organization will make it more difficult than rocket science.

So my advise for you Big Data journey in HR: start small.


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