Big data is often seen as a cold, numbers driven business process, where people are reduced to digits on a screen and achievements are simply KPIs being hit. However, this is not the case in many HR departments and companies across the world, where big data and analytics have been fully embraced.
It is not just the kind of people who were pushing fads like sitting on an exercise ball or using standing desks either - HR analytics has become a world beater. Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström from MIT even won the Nobel Prize In Economics in October 2016 for their work in the field, with the jury saying ‘The new theoretical tools created by Hart and Holmstrom are valuable to the understanding of real-life contracts and institutions, as well as potential pitfalls in contract design.’ It has hit the mainstream and even won the world’s most prestigious award, but what exactly can it do?
The first, and arguably most important element of the HR process is hiring the right people for your team, which is something in which data can have a key role. One company that is revolutionizing how companies are doing this is Chemistry Group, having recently partnered with SAP to create an HR analytics innovation lab.
Initially, the labs will be used to find key identifiers for the best candidates through mining data beyond what many traditional services currently do. A major part of this is through looking beyond simple psychometric tests done by millions of companies already. Instead, the idea is to mine across a candidate’s entire digital footprint, not to necessarily find embarrassing photos from high school, but to identify the real personality traits of an applicant. Gareth Jones, chief innovation officer at The Chemistry Group explains it as ’An individual’s ‘digital footprint’ provides a far richer and more objective picture of that person than current assessment approaches could ever hope to do and, if modeled in the right way, a far more accurate way of assessing their potential.’
It means that through data mining and algorithms, companies will not only have the opportunity to look beyond qualifications and pressurised interviews at who will be the best fit for their team, but also gives a certain validation for the candidate too.
A key anxiety for new hires is that they may have gotten the job through luck, perhaps some slight exaggeration on a CV or simply being strong during the interview process. Through having applications analyzed to a detailed level, candidates know that they have been thoroughly vetted and been deemed to be good enough not through a human interpretation of what constitutes success, but through a far more rigorous analysis.
One of the keys to an effective goal is measurability and viability in target setting, something that big data allows at a granular level.
If you are in a marketing team, for instance, and you know that you need to improve your open rates on an email, there are some really basic elements that you can look at, like subject lines, colours used or regional differences. However, with big data, teams can go considerably further, being able to look at these on a macro level and changing many tiny elements to build bug gains overall.
However, it also means that specific goals can be identified considerably more easily. For instance, if you wanted to target a niche market in a particular city, you could set targets based on considerably more diverse and interesting data than traditional analytics platforms would allow. According to several business psychologists including Deci and Ryan, a key element of keeping employees motivated is through giving them autonomy, and giving them access to this kind of data allows them to identify the targets that will eventually lead to more holistic company-wide goals.
Goal Tracking & Mastery
Having the ability to look beyond the number of people visiting your website or increasing your annual revenues is one of the most important elements of any successful big data program. Simply looking at the high level stats is no longer a viable option as it doesn’t give the level of detail needed to give really profound and meaningful insight.
For instance, you may have the ability to see how many people came in from a specific campaign, but do you know why that worked? Do you know who is responsible for the successful elements? Do you know the nature of the visits? There have been several examples of people visiting sites because a campaign is terrible, so how do you know if that’s the case?
Having the ability to drill down through huge amounts of data to find the really powerful metrics and nuggets of information is the core purpose of big data and is also a key tool for employees to be able to track their progress. The success of ‘increasing website visitors’ or ‘increasing revenue’ comes from the success of the elements that make up the larger goals, which are in turn made from smaller metrics. Being able to accurately track these at a macro level gives genuine goals that can be achieved daily, creating almost a gamification model and further increasing motivation to meet long term, larger goals.