Big data, big opportunities: your digital guide

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Big data and people analytics really isn’t as scary as it sounds. It can have an extremely positive and beneficial effect on any company if implemented in the right way.

But what is the right way?

It can often appear that many companies choose to focus on their customers but forget about their own workforce, a workforce that can cost a company a hidden and possibly immeasurable fortune on an annual basis. Whether it be engagement, retention or the need to employ and train new staff, the cost implications can consistently increase.

I have come across a vast number of articles on the web which seem to focus on organisations using big data to help make better and more informed decisions on how to recruit high calibre people who will fit and work well within the company. It occurred to me that there is significantly less guidance available on how to use this information to help your existing employees and those you possibly value most. Why not look at how big data can help you keep your current workforce engaged and feeling valued?

Big data and people analytics, as it is referred to in the context of HR, should be used in far more savvy ways to help get a more productive and engaged workforce. By looking at individuals as well as collective environments such as teams and departments, we can compile our own big data and look at elements such as the ways in which they like to communicate, what are their basic fears, motivators, strengths and limitations? We can discover their frustrations, how they behave under pressure, do they embrace or fear change, is stability and security an issue, or are they adaptable and self-motivated?

However, what we must also consider is what is referred to as the 'fundamental analytics error', where the credit of blame can be apportioned to the individual and the situation is not accounted for. For instance, if we have a talented person with the right behavioural traits and skills, in the right environment, they will perform well. That same person in the wrong environment would more than likely not perform as well as expected and therefore be seen as an underachiever without the right skills or traits for the role.

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. 

Albert Einstein

Analysing the data we have on our people, whether it be behavioural profiles, their mental processing speed, or whether a department or team are 'engaged' as a whole, doesn’t mean you are naturally going to get the best from them. Nor does it mean that your most valued and perhaps best performing people are going to stay. However if managers have a greater understanding of workplace behaviours and team or department interactions and dynamics, it can only have a positive impact on productivity and engagement.

So in short, big data can be hugely powerful and beneficial, but don’t assume that it has all of the answers! It can be just as blind and biased as the human mind if you don’t take into account the bigger picture.

What big data can do, if used as part of the bigger picture is help managers to make decisions that are more informed and provide better support to their employees.

Download our new digital guide for more information on how you can apply people analytics to all stages of the employee lifecycle. 

Celeste McFarland

Celeste McFarland

Celeste is an experienced marketing professional who joined Thomas in 2015. She specialises in the world of L&D, and is passionate about inspiring people through creativity. Outside of work, Celeste enjoys travelling and the learning that it brings, or spending time with friends and family at her home in Yorkshire.

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