February 14, 2012

The Big Implications of Big Data

Elephant Sized Big DataWhat’s trending? That’s not a question you might have heard even five years ago. But as data becomes more widespread and access to that data gains access points in our daily lives, seeing a “trend” has become as simple as turning on your iPhone, checking your facebook analytics or scanning a word cloud.

In ways that were nearly impossible for the recruiters and HR Pros of yore (yes, YORE) we have the ability to gain insight into what candidates, employees, consumers and clients are saying and potentially feeling about our brand (employer, personal or consumer) at any moment. Moreover, talent management professionals can compare and contrast this data with other sources and come up with a holistic picture. It’s actually pretty cool.

But it’s about to get a whole lot bigger. McKinsey reports:

Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.

Big data is headed for HR. While the enterprise sector has seen a lot of changes of late; including the consumerization of technology, the slow but perceptible shift to SaaS (despite large headlines, only 16%  of applications are SaaS) and executive embrace of the cloud, it will barely have time to settle down before data and the storage thereof, starts to become and issue for companies. And with companies, the HR and Recruiting Pros who work within them.

McKinsey estimated that, by 2009, nearly all sectors in the US economy had at least an average of 200 terabytes of stored data (twice the size of US retailer Wal-Mart’s datawarehouse in 1999) per company with more than 1,000 employees. So big data is here, it’s happening and it’s only getting larger.

Another fascinating stat? There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to really leverage big data. By 2018, the United States alone could be short 140,000 to 190,000 people with the analytical skills necessary to use big data to make effective decisions. Jason Averbook wrote about Big Data’s impact on HR recently:

Think about all of the HR transactional data that is now in digital form.  We have detailed information on almost every employee interaction from the time they begin poking around our career portal until we hit “save” on their exit interview.  This is an example of the 95% that we will be able to structure and analyze with Big Data tools.

Exciting to read about, thrilling to ponder, terrifying to build for. In fact, how do we ready our systems for the influx of data? Data that is supposed to be unmined, unused and sitting where the attic would be (if computers had attics), where do we put this 95% of stuff that is going to make our businesses more competitive and potentially increase operating margins in some sectors my as much as 60%? John Sumser (one of Forbes Top 20 Influencers in Big Data) said:..”the flows of data from personalized sensors and simulations will break the databases and structures we have in place.”

Which is a way of saying we don’t know. Some large systems, like SAP and Oracle are capable of analyzing this data today but again, discovering the unique impact on HR Professionals and Recruiters can be a bit of a guessing game. Aside from the talent shortage McKinsey mentioned (and the hiring headaches that will ensue) how will HR be impacted? Dr E.J. Sarma suggests sourcing shifts, more focused recruiting, heightened assessments and more. With Big Data tools able to handle the additional load, social accounts, audio files and email messages can all be tracked and analyzed. In theory, this creates a more effective and productive workforce. Blogger and Sourcing expert Glen Cathey states:

Regardless of title, data scientists in support of talent identification and acquisition efforts will collect, extract and analyze human capital information from large datasets and deliver actionable intelligence to hiring managers and teams. In other words, these data scientists will find and identify top talent and enable better data/fact-based sourcing and hiring decisions, empowering their employer with the competitive advantage of consistently hiring the best people.

Read more in Workplace Technology

Maren Hogan is a seasoned marketer and community builder in the HR and Recruiting industry. She leads Red Branch Media, an agency offering marketing strategy and content development. A consistent advocate of next generation marketing techniques, Hogan has built successful online communities, deployed brand strategies in both the B2B and B2C sectors, and been a prolific contributor of thought leadership in the global recruitment and talent space. Hogan speaks and writes on all career and workforce related subjects. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and SMBs around the globe. Red Branch Media was formed in 2006 as a simple consultancy. Today, the firm is a full-service B2B Marketing Agency that serves clients in the U.K., Africa, China, Israel, Europe and North America. Primarily focused on the Human Resources and Global Workforce vendors, Red Branch Media handles clients of all shapes and sizes.
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