A human resources manager from a large energy company recently told me that he was no longer paid for taking decisions, or for giving his views on potential future scenarios. He was paid for getting it right.
And that’s precisely why Big Data is here, to help you get it right. It’s not a fashion or a fantasy from the future. Some companies have already recognised the advantages, in terms of efficiency, of incorporating real time treatment of large flows of information in both their productive and organisational processes. One of the most common mistakes being made when talking about Big Data is thinking that its scope is limited to the company’s IT, Marketing or Business Development departments, that these are the only ones needing to implement and apply it. And so many companies forget that the most valuable data generated within the organisation is that which comes from their own staff.
On this basis, an increasing number of human resources departments are starting to think about how they can anticipate present and future scenarios. It is a reality in the USA, with Forbes magazine already referring in 2014 to Big Data as an unstoppable trend in HR departments. In Spain, it is something that is gradually starting to make its mark amongst those responsible for people management, although many organisations are still far from thinking of their staff in terms of information, let alone introducing an HR Analytics strategy in their talent management models.
The first step: assessment
The main hurdle encountered by HR departments is that despite the fact that company employees generate a large amount of data, from their contribution to the business to their level of activity, only a small proportion of such data is collected in a structured way and from reliable sources. This is so either because people management policies are not always able to align business indicators to people’s talent and potential, or because HR departments do not have the necessary technology for doing so.
And thus, an appropriate HR Analytics strategy must start with an assessment of the current situation, and the situation we want to achieve:
- Identification of key business needs on which to act: ensure competitiveness, design risk maps, digital transformation, control and regulation…
- Identification of key issues: Key staff at greater risk of leaving the company? Impact indicators in unwanted turnover? Critical factors which can give an indication of the success of future leaders? Indicators to detect hidden or less visible talent? Elements of a candidate’s profile which can better predict potential performance throughout their career?
- From these key questions, collect and classify existing data on these persons, with regard to both their contribution to the business and their talent and potential.
- Analyse the structural, stratification and quality levels of such data. Having data is not enough, what is needed are specific guidelines to show how such results have come about.
- Identify key data which are missing in regard to these persons, and which could perhaps be obtained through evaluation and mapping of talent and potential.
- Analyse the need for technological tools, through Big Data solutions already available within the organisation and being used by other business areas.
With this assessment, our HR Analytics strategy will allow us to make projections and predictions in order to anticipate different scenarios, with objective and reliable decision-making elements to support decisions based on experience or intuition. Information analysed and served in real time will allow us to make simulations with different variables, from, say, the setting up of a new client relationship model, to the economic impact on salaries and social security contributions of a possible change in labour laws.
The arrival of Big Data, and specifically of HR Analytics, rather than forcing us to choose between working with people or working with data, gives us the perfect opportunity to provide answers to the key questions an organisation must ask itself regarding its talent management; or, in the words of the manager I quoted above, in order to get it right. But let’s be clear: this is no magical solution, we have to go one step at a time. And we will only make progress if the organisation is able to systematically process evaluation and mapping of talent and potential in an objective and scientific manner. Only then will we be able to talk about an HR Analytics strategy which serves to boost planning and anticipation capacity in the light of the challenges posed by business and the market.