How big data will change human resources

We’ve seen it in so many other industries over the last decade or so. Datafication, or using large amounts of data to report, analyze and predict, has revolutionized the way companies such as Wal-Mart, eBay and Amazon do business and now it’s the Human Resources profession’s turn to hop on the train. Sure, we will use it in different ways, but similar to the way Amazon knows which shoes I’m dying to have in my closet, we will eventually get to the point where we know the type of employee the organization needs, how long they will likely stay with the organization and nearly every step of their progression within the company, without even having to think about it.

Where we are now

If you’re only looking at the current state of big data in HR, you could make the assumption that it’s just not that big of a deal. This is because most companies are only using it for the most basic of purposes, reporting. While big data’s capabilities are robust and varied, most HR departments feel they are doing good just to produce necessary reports. The more advanced companies are using big data, such as compensation market data, to make important decisions about comp plans and salaries. But only about four percent of companies are currently using big data to predict and forecast. While it is seen as a valuable tool, there is some adaptation to technology that needs to occur in order for it to be fully embraced.

Aside from the technology learning curve, there is an industry-wide perception that data could never replace the wisdom and intuition gained only by spending years on the job. On this, I agree. Intuition is invaluable, but big data can be extremely powerful when coupled with that intuition. When hunches are confirmed and observations lead to the identification of correlations, it’s easy to buy in to the idea that big data is valuable.

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The future of HR departments

Right now it may seem that data analysis is one more task to add to your job, it will eventually become second nature. This is because the data management systems and analysis tools will continue to evolve and will require less and less oversight and manipulation from HR departments. Aside from functionality continuing to improve, it will be vital for HR departments to make use of big data if they wish to keep up. When your competitors are capturing the very same employees you’re after (and doing so quicker and quicker with the assistance of big data), it’s going to be difficult to sit on your hands and not make use of every tool you have at your disposal. Like any other technology, it will take time for widespread adoption to occur but one day you’ll look up and realize that everyone around you has a competitive advantage just from using big data.

The future of HR jobs

First and foremost, HR will always be a people-centric industry. We network with, recruit, hire, sever ties with, develop and train people. As long as companies have human capital, HR professionals will have jobs. However, there may be increasing expectations for HR professionals to be able to master big data as it will become more and more common to be able to gather and analyze such information. Another change big data will bring is more specialized jobs in the HR department, such as statisticians to gather data and project managers to bring it all together. HR professionals whom are well versed in data and analytics will be enormous assets to companies in the future.

Have you seen big data make a splash in your company? Tell us how and why you initially adopted the use of big data in the comments section below.

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6 Comments on "How big data will change human resources"

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Lynetha Lee


Pat Goh



The article does not give any specific example, it’s just says Big Data will be very useful. But HOW?

Janice M

When I started in Compensation over 30 years ago, senior management expected a monthly and quarterly analysis of economic trends (Consumer Price Index, housing starts, etc. etc.) from the Compensation department. Although the analysis and reporting eventually migrated to the Economics department, it was a useful exercise for us in forecasting trends in a very hot jobs market

Dan Stachofsky

As a services firm focused on data analytics and BI for corporations, some of our biggest clients are in the HR departments. The data is so rich and there’s a lot that can be done around employee engagement, compensation accuracy (thanks Payscale for all you do! it gets even better when married up corporate data sets), improving manager behaviors and landing the right talent mix. Reach out if you have any questions: (

There have been many articles written over the last few years touting the impact that Big Data will have on HR and the need for HR to start using Big Data. Unfortunately, this is yet another article with all sizzle and no steak. How will HR harness Big Data to really improve talent management when there are no agreed upon theoretical models for talent management that can be used to organize the immense amount of qualitative data which is currently used to make talent decisions? Hiring an employee is an infinitely more complex process than buying a box of diapers… Read more »