Big Data

How big data will impact employment and human resources

Image Credit: Greenbook Blog

This post was authored by Sandeep Chand, Director of Research & Development at iCIMS. iCIMS is the leading provider of innovative Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) talent acquisition solutions.

There is a growing awareness among decision makers of what big data is, what it can do, and why it’s important.

Put briefly, big data is what it sounds like: the collection of data that can ultimately be used to create reports that tell a richer, multifaceted story not easily discernible with existing reporting capabilities. Like any other disruptive technology, big data comes with its share of skeptics, who argue that any report, metric, or KPI tells a story and therefore big data isn’t a significant business change. However, the skeptics can be proven wrong. Big data is so big that it has the potential to disrupt everything we think we know about consumer behavior, employment, healthcare, and any other sector of our lives.

How big is big data really? According to IBM, we create 2.5 exabytes (quintillion bytes) of data every day. Put it all together, and you have seriously BIG data and a seriously BIG story. Where does the data come from? Hint: If you’re reading this on a screen, you are looking at it right now. In today’s world, it is very difficult — almost impossible — not to leave a digital footprint across everything that you do. Credit card companies have been tracking consumers for a while, but with cheap data storage and computing costs, this ability has become mainstream. Purchasing behavior is being tracked continuously — whenever you make a credit card purchase, scan a rewards card at a store, or even use EZPass to pay your tolls. The capturing, monitoring, and recording of data has become an undeniable norm that will become even more widespread and in-depth in the future.

While grasping the grandeur of big data can be a challenge, what is most important is that we grasp the potential impact. As a human resources software provider, iCIMS is acutely aware of the potential of big data and how it will one day change everything we know about hiring and human resources.

The key areas every recruiting technology company must try to solve (and continually improve upon) for its customers are:

  • How can our technology help candidates find their ideal job?
  • How can our technology help recruiters find their next best candidates?
  • How can our technology help HR executives show how their organization’s performance against their peers?

The use of big data offers a lot of potential when solving these key issues.

Today, recruitment technology companies like iCIMS focus on better defining sourcing, recruitment, and onboarding core metrics and analytics. These metrics and analytics allow a deeper-dive analysis into a company’s existing data that pertains to key elements, such as best sources for job applicants, time and cost to fill vacant positions, and the measurement of onboarding to productivity. Benchmarking a company’s performance against other companies of similar size, industry, and region will become a reality in the very near future. While the progression toward big data is happening quickly, recruitment software providers have been working behind the scenes to lay the necessary foundation to facilitate improved integrations and exporting capabilities. This will allow big data analytic hosts to make the necessary connection between today’s disparate business systems in the near future.

So, what processes are in place today, where is it all beginning, and what are recruitment technology companies doing today in preparation for big data? “Garbage in – garbage out” is a common phrase that can also apply to big data. In preparation for the encroaching days when data will get bigger, businesses must focus their provisional efforts on streamlining processes and associating data collections so that data is unduplicated and normalized.

Companies also need to begin building a foundation of employees who have the analytical skills to interpret data and managers to do something about the findings. According to a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute study, Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity,  “the United States alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts to analyze big data and make decisions based on their findings.”

While many companies are making significant progress toward preparations for big data with skilled people and updated technology, the application of big data still has its challenges. The most apparent challenge is that data elements are currently stored in different locations with different levels of access. That information needs to be centralized and accessible in order for it to achieve its comprehensive potential. Additionally, this data is so huge that normal computers and even big servers cannot accommodate the volume of it. With this being true, some companies are progressively making strides to develop big data and nurture its capabilities.

Despite difficulties, data that will become available has the potential to change everything we know about human resources and create possibilities we never knew existed. For example, imagine a day when the cumulative user data from a company’s internal systems (such as the company’s financial systems, customer relationship management tools, project management tools, bug trackers, and customer support systems) can replace employee reviews, predict employee behavior, or help to create a persona of the ‘perfect’ employee against which hiring managers can accurately measure job candidates. Consider the ramifications of a possible centralized database recruiters could use to source job candidates based on factual statistics derived from a candidate’s behavior in previous jobs. The existence of this type of data could uncover unprecedented associations between profit dollars and a company’s cost-affiliated employees.

Imagine the potential insights from data points collected and compared on local, national, and international levels. Everything we know about employment and hiring benchmarking can radically change with the application of big data. Big data analysis can undermine or prove long-held beliefs about skills, education, and the prediction of employee success. While we cannot expect big data to start influencing recruitment behavior this week, everyone from business owners to software vendors must begin to embrace the oncoming changes if they want to succeed in tomorrow’s world of big data.


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