Turning Data into Insight : What Big Data Means for HR

The cost of not doing anything will have serious implications.

Get started now. Begin with baby steps. Measure and tweak as you go along but decide firstly what it is that you want from this initiative.

This message was loud and clear at the recent Mercer Marsh Employee Health and Benefits Series event1. Big data is here to stay, and will only get bigger. It’s been a buzzword for some time but don’t let trendy terminology fool you.

There is a price to be paid if you simply sit and watch, undecided about whether you will do anything about big data.

What is big data?

But first, what exactly is big data? Industry analyst Doug Laney articulated the now mainstream definition of big data as the three V’s: volume, velocity and variety.2

  • We’re talking about terabytes3 and petabytes of data now.
  • This is not just about speed, rather it is about speed in the direction desired. With data streaming in at an unprecedented rate, being able to collate the right data and draw insight that enables you to react quickly is a challenge for many organisations.
  • Data comes in different formats, both structured and unstructured. The sources are varied ranging from enterprise data, VOIP, social media interactions as well as data from sensors and devices. Add to this email, video or images, financial transactions and you have the unenviable position of having to collect, manage, merge and then draw conclusions from these various data sets.

Yes, big data is growing fast. But big data is just that – data and lots of it – and this volume is set to grow.

Data has to be presented in such a way that it tells a story. It needs to link different ideas together and the impact of visual representation of such data cannot be underestimated.

Yet, there is one more V we need to add to the mix, which is Veracity. As can be expected, there are varying levels of uncertainty pertaining to various data sets which present quite a task in terms of managing both the reliability and predictability of inherently imprecise data types.

What does this mean for HR?

The explosion of Talent Data

Tthe most common measures we take into account typically include turnover, appraisal, employee productivity, workforce profiling, attitude or engagement.

However, HR is grappling with so many data sets. There is an explosion, if you will, of talent data out there.

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