With more than 25 years experience as an international HR executive in Fortune 500 companies (Pepsi, Starbucks, Nielsen), Luk is recognized as a top European Predictive HR Analytics expert. He is revered as a leading thinker and influencer, and is a well-known blogger, speaker, columnist and author of many articles. Luk teaches HR Analytics at the Universities of Nyenrode (NL), Leuven (BE) and Antwerp (BE). He is the Co-Founder and CEO of iNostix (www.inostix.com) - predictive workforce analytics company.

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.

Long data?

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!

  • Many organizations are just beginning to build capabilities in this area. Everyone’s talking about big data — but what does it mean for HR and HR professionals? This Blog captures the main points of a thought-provoking and fast-paced discussion. But there is also a lively diversity in views, particularly on whether the adoption of big data and Analytics could enhance the status of HRPs within their organizations.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting point of view, Luk. And I fully agree the no. 1 misconception today is about the term of “big data” itself in HR.

    Why all the hype about HR right now and not 10 years ago? I believe because the shift towards mobile usage that generates input of a superior quality (since you generally tap instead of enter free text there). Why it is one of the last sectors to embrace this? Because HR is about people, and people are not easy metrics (thank God!!) – Bias.

    To me, people analytics will only work to the extent of specific problems being identified, and then dealt with with metrics in a data lake, followed by a rigorous prescription. (there will be no magic CRM to give you all metrics to solve any problem – and the main reason for that is you’ll never be able to obtain all data from applicants/employees in a structured format).

    Lastly, I believe the “big data” in its true meaning is great to measure trends – and it presently does, but people should understand there are not many business use cases for the average consumer from this.

    Danut Croitor

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