This article is part of our Essential Guide: A guide to HR technology

Big data could transform staff management

Data analytics has the potential to help businesses make dramatic returns by managing their workforce more effectively

Big data will transform the way businesses develop the talent in their workforce over the next five years, according to analysts.

Data analytics has the potential to help businesses make dramatic returns by managing their workforce more effectively, said human resources (HR) technology analyst Josh Bersin.

“This is the next big thing that is going to happen in HR,” he told delegates at the HR Tech Europe conference.

Data analytics technologies have the potential to offer businesses insights into their employees that could have a real impact on company profits, the HR conference heard.

One insurance company, for example, had a policy of only hiring graduates from top schools, in the belief that this would help it maximise profits from the sales team.

But data analytics showed that other factors, such as not having typographical mistakes in a CV and performing well in a previous job, were much better indicators of top performers.

“Its entire belief structure was wrong,” said Bersin.

The company changed its hiring strategy, and saw a significant increase in profits as a result, he revealed.

Bersin advised HR departments to set up small teams to develop data analytics as a discipline within their own organisations.

“Start working on this, and over the next three to five years you will see the biggest return on investment,” he said.

Take a structured approach to big data

Most organisations already collect the data they need to perform really powerful analysis, said Bersin.

But finding the data can often be messy as it is rarely stored in the right place, he said, advising the gathered HR professionals to start with the business problem, rather than the data itself.

Data analytics is the next big thing that is going to happen in HR

Josh Bersin, HR technology analyst

“You need to think of a process that creates reliable data, that will scale,” said Bersin.

There is a growing number of cloud providers that will take data, analyse it and return the results, he said.

Bersin advised organisations to free up HR staff for analytical work by automating as much routine report production as possible.

“If you are producing reports all day, you will never do the high-value stuff. You need to give reports to line mangers and let them run them,” he said.

Bersin warned that it typically takes several years for organisations to build up expertise in analytics.

“You can get ahead of it if you focus on the skills right now,” he said.

Image: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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