With the upcoming HR Tech World Congress in Paris, we will once again see an entire series of ‘HR Big Data’ articles. But have these authors ever done any research about what big data really is? You wind up very soon at the Amazons, Googles and Booking.coms of this world. Millions of new records every day, thousands of new customers every hour, data centres with terabytes of new data produced every minute! Recognise the spectre of HR yet? I, for one, do not! While I’m totally done with all those nuance-less HR big data blah blah, I certainly don’t want there to be any misunderstandings about this: big data, I love you! It’s a fantastic environment, and these are great times to get to know these completely new technologies and analytical approaches. Life will never be the same again!
Hitching a ride on the hype
But where exactly is the added value for HR? Why do all these do-gooding pseudo-authors suddenly find it necessary to take up their pen and take on HR? It’s the million dollar question. Answer: HR is the very last function not to have started working with data yet and everyone (probably) wants to have their share and hitch a ride on the big data hype. Hell you!
There’s a lot to learn from big data
While all the other fast guys (marketing, sales, production, R&D, logistics, finance) are killing themselves analysing absolutely everything and are producing an enormous amount of data that must give them the necessary insights, HR appears to remain in deep hibernation. Could the talk of big data rouse it? Yes, certainly! I’ve never talked so much with HR about big data. Then I explain that HR itself has no big data, but that we can learn a lot from the phenomenon: evolving from reporting to predicting, focusing on disciplined data gathering, adding analytical experts to the team, thinking about data governance, enriching decision-making with long data, etc.
Mathematician Samuel Arbesman argues that by now it’s quite clear that all of us together are producing great mountains of data at an eye-watering speed that can give us the necessary insights. However, he finds it’s high time for us to start concentrating on long data. By ‘long data’ he means data sets covering a long history, painting a changing and moving picture, mapping out processes and interactions that change through time. If you want to measure how successful your recruitment is (quality of hire), you will know the results only in a year or even later than that. On the condition, of course, that you collected all relevant data in a disciplined way. So all the moralising about HR big data has some added value after all. I love it!