This series of articles introduces the concepts and practices of collating, analysing and acting on big data insight for the biggest gains in employee performance.

An increasing number of HR professionals are facing a ‘big data deluge’ that, with the correct approach, can be collated and analysed to effectively enhance people management.

Simply owing data no longer means value. This wealth of information not only enables HR to understand who, but importantly, how the best performers continue to exceed expectations.

Recent industry studies have shown that organisations with a comprehensive approach to people management perform better than those without, which is illustrated by factors such as higher profits per employee, higher profit margins and higher productivity.

Obtaining this level of detail enables organisations to make sure their best performers:

  • Are recognised and rewarded.
  • Supported in their career ambitions.
  • Developed further to maximise their full potential.
  • Given stretching targets and objectives to work towards.

Businesses can create a picture of their employee base and establish what ‘great’ looks like by combining big data with simple analytics.

This data enables employers to effectively recruit against a ‘known’ profile of a high performing employee and make sure their discretionary reward expenditure is efficiently utilised.

For those who do not believe the power of an integrated approach to analysing and using HR data, a report from McKinsey in 2011, revealed that some companies are starting to discover new ways of using HR analytics to add value.

For example, the Bon-Ton chain of more than 280 department stores in the US, leveraged its Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and business data to identify attributes that made cosmetics sales reps successful.

Now, it screens potential reps by using a test of cognitive ability, situational judgement, initiative taking and other relevant traits. Those who score in the top half tend to sell 10% more products than the others and enjoy their work more.

The ever-increasing message from CEOs on the need for ‘evidence-based’ HR to help inform their decision-making cannot be ignored. Data and its analysis play a key role in fulfilling this need. However, HR teams should not forget to equip themselves with the necessary skills to help them understand and interpret this information.

For instance, HR professionals should never forget that ‘correlation does not imply causation.’ This is one of the most basic tenets of statistical analysis. The idea is straightforward – ‘just because there is a connection between two variables, does not necessarily mean that one causes the other.’ This is extremely important in the world of HR, which has long pursued the ability to link its activities to positive business results.

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