“Big Data”: A Tool for Talent Management?Big Data

By Robert Teal, CCP, CBP


The most modest organization has large amounts of information, i.e., “Big Data”, on its operations, suppliers, customers, and especially on its employees.  Even knowing as little as length of service, hours worked, job function, performance data, and location can be telling as to which employees are likely to succeed or not.  The basis for Big Data decision making is founded in that class that most students ignored or only took the one mandatory course.  That course usually covered the statistical foundation concepts of data collection & presentation, variability, central tendency, sampling theory, inference & hypotheses testing, regression & correlation, indexes & time series, and seasonal & cyclical analysis.  While an employer with a few dozen employees can manage them with no more of a sophisticated tool than a good memory or paper notebook, even a middle sized organization of a workforce of few hundred needs to look deeper.


To illustrate the role of Big Data and Talent Management, the Polytechnic Institute of New York University recently hosted a day-long workshop titled: “Talent Management 2.0: HR Innovation In The Big Data Era”.  Speakers at the workshop included NYU-Poly instructors from the computer science, engineering, and technology departments.  Additional speakers included individuals representing PepsiCo, Aon Hewitt, Google, SAS, Morgan Stanley, JetBlue Airways, and Accenture.


Aasonn, a global systems and technology services consulting firm, recently reported on a study by the MIT Sloan Management Review: “From Value to Vision: Re imagining the Possible with Data Analytics”.  The MIT study found that while “17% of product development, 19% of marketing, and 20% of operations respondents reported using analytics to drive innovation”, however only 8% of HR organizations used analytics to drive talent acquisition and retention.


In what he refers to as “Talent Analytics”, Josh Bersin, a contributor for Forbes, writes, “While most of the talk is about applying BigData to marketing and consumer businesses, there is an even bigger opportunity to apply BigData to Human Resources.


In the same way a marketer might look at customer consumption behavior patterns, the recruiter would look at employee performance and correlate it with various data points.  By asking questions as to who is performing and what they have in common, the recruiter may be able to isolate discrete factors which identify employees as top performers.


Is it significant that 90% of employees in department A quit after 18 to 36 months?  Is it significant that 70% of employees who were managed by manager B are now in middle and upper management roles?  Is it significant that all of your best engineers came from small non-top 10 colleges, worked 12-36 months at the Tacoma facility, are currently enrolled in a graduate or MBA program, and have 2 to 4 years of military service?



About the author, Robert Teal, CCP, CBP

Robert Teal, CCP, CBP

Robert Teal

Robert Teal is a Senior Human Resource leader with demonstrated ability to deliver cost effective solutions in the areas of research, design, implementation, communication, & administration of employee compensation and benefit plans and HR/Payroll systems. Robert Teal’s blog: Trends in Total Employee Rewards.




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