Big Data

On March 20, 2013, in Big Data, HRExaminer, by John Sumser

Big Data - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

There are a few things that most people miss about Big Data in HR.

Big Data

Last week, I was a guest at the Ultimate Software Users’ Conference. The audience was at least 1,500 strong. The customer loyalty was evident.

Big Data was part of the subtext of the meeting. Ultimate is expanding its reach with “connectors” and a partnership with Informatica. Both involve making the UltiPro tool the center of data usage and analysis.

Ron Hanscome, the new analyst at Gartner gave a presentation about Big Data that included the usual admonishments to upskill the HR Team. He noted that most intra-system work is done with spreadsheets. He described an achievable vision of the questions involved in going towards big data.

And, Ultimate is introducing an algorithm that predicts an employee’s retention risk and embeds it directly into their Talent Card, helping leaders more proactively manage their talent.

There are a few things that most people miss about Big Data in HR.

  • HR will be a significant provider to other departments’ Big Data machinations. It will require a rapid move away from spreadsheets and towards real data integrity. This will be a new and important demand for HR’s time and resources. The political and legal issues are significant.
  • Real time performance management is another way of saying real time surveillance. As the Talent Management arena becomes real time, HR’s role is going to shift in a hurry. .
  • The most significant benefits of Big Data projects will use data from outside the HR Department and from outside the organization.
  • Big Data will have a larger effect on the organization than social media. It will force departments and suppliers to collaborate in ways impossible to imagine.

IT oriented consultants view the adoption of this next wave of technology as yet another exercise in readiness and planning. It will be every bit as much of that as social media or the original web were. Meaning not at all.

As we learn to ask the right questions and learn to ask the ones we think are impossible, the magic of measuring will become clearer.

Meanwhile, tons of companies will be aggregating the data about our employees and offering to sell it back to us. They will arrive at insights we wish weren’t so public. They will spot our weaknesses before we do?

For example, what is the range of tenure in your most important department? What should it be? What is it like in other companies? What percent of your best people are close to or beyond the average retention rate? How does that compare to your industry, their industry, your region or other clusters of that type of professional.

(Note that every worker is simultaneously a member of your company’s industry and their profession’s industry. You can’t really understand your workforce unless you understand the dynamics of both)

Just as Big Data is emerging as a force in recruiting (Indeed and all of the social data aggregators and testers). It will transform the HR Department and the rest of the organization.

I’m not so sure about the upskilling thing but do recommend that you get everyone in the HR Department a copy of Naked Statistics. (The sad thing is that the folks who really need it block content that contains the word Naked.)


  • Pingback: HRExaminer v4.12 | HR Examiner()

  • Peter Clayton

    Several years ago I produced a terrific interview series with Bob Sutton, Professor of Management Science & Engineering and Professor of Org Behavior at Stamford. He had published a best selling book titled “The No Asshole Rule.” Unfortunately, the company that sponsored the series couldn’t access it because of the word asshole. When will organizations start treating employees as adults? Because a book has ‘naked’ in the title, the firewall blocks it? That’s just stupid.

  • Pingback: A New Paradigm for People Management | Sergio G. Caredda()

  • Rory Trotter

    Great post, John.

    One challenge that I often run into when I want to test the validity of a theory is finding “toy data sets” on which I can build a model.

    Do you know of any resources where I can download some sample data sets? I’d love to start developing some working concepts around fun questions like “What sorts of applicants will perform well in what roles?”, What high performers are flight risk, who should we be look at as future leaders (i.e. measuring the value of human capital with meaningful performance metrics), what does our turnover look like by department (and why)? etc. but I’m not really sure of where to start.

    Thanks for any suggestions you can provide here.



  • Pingback: Back to the Future: Practical Tips on Using Big Data to Recruit()

  • Pingback: The Good, The Bad, The Hired()

  • Pingback: Big Data, Recruiting and Employer Branding in The Cloud()

Page 1 of 11
Read previous post:
Jason Lauritsen, Editorial Advisory Board Contributor
What if HR was Outlawed?

"To explore the degree to which your HR organization is designed to produce the results your CEO is seeking, try...