HR: 2.0 - Big Data

What Is Big Data?

First, let’s define Big Data. Big Data is described as “the use of new database management tools to analyze huge quantities of data.”1 The term is used to describe the 3Vs, the new volume, variety, and velocity of data that companies must now manage. This sort of information may be difficult to analyze using existing tools and systems2. More importantly, Big Data can present a whole new range of opportunities for some companies, making it possible to influence business strategies for which decisions are based on data analysis and any measureable information3. Big Data has become a buzzword that has disseminated across the world of business and human resources.

According to an IDC study4, the Big Data trend is growing at an average rate of 26.4% per year up to 2018. This significant technological development is providing a wealth of new resources for business services, particularly for finance and marketing departments, and now human resources as well. In light of the ‘war for talent’, it is unsurprising that the use of Big Data has made its way into the sphere of human resources, going as far as to influence hiring decisions5. Human resources specialists now face a number of challenges that are leading them to adapt their practices. The availability of an exponential amount of analytical data to human resources raises the questions of how can HR take advantage of Big Data, and what are its limitations.

A New Way Forward for HR – The Influence of Analytics

In view of this, how can this technology be linked to the human resources industry? A growing number of HR managers have begun to mine digitized statistical data to influence hiring decisions. For human resources management, this means that it is possible to collect and analyze data, and then attach additional information to qualitative measures based, for example, on evaluation tests and interviews. Opportunities to incorporate data analytics are growing, which enables HR to make more enlightened staffing decisions. Using descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and cognitive analyses of talent, HR can gather enough information to ensure a clearer overview of the performance, engagement, and even motivation of their current and future staff6.

New Competencies – A New Challenge

In the age of social media and Web 2.0, data analysis is indisputably becoming a key tool for businesses. By extracting pertinent data, HR analysts might facilitate talent and competency management, leading to more concrete determinant factors in the decision-making process. As a result, information technologies have quickly become available for human resources, and it has evidently become necessary to be aware of and trained in using these new data analytics tools. This inevitably raises questions concerning analytics: what to research, how to quantify it, and most of all, the real challenge of how to understand what it all means. Are we going to witness the emergence of a new HR expertise?

Seeing Beyond the Data

“Data is good. Drowning in it, less so.”7. Understandably, not everyone is enthused about this phenomenon, and for multiple reasons. The inclusion of Big Data in HR processes is a worrisome trend for a number of companies8. Many have questioned the use of statistics in decisions regarding employees’ place and success in the workplace. Statistics have their purpose, but using data to sum up the employee-employer relationship will not please everyone9. This practice may be perceived as demoralizing and unpleasing, since the employee’s value to the employer is reduced to quantitative data.

Studies also demonstrate that, since human understanding is an important element in making informed decisions, Big Data alone is not sufficient10. Data still needs to be interpreted by a human; data only provides a framework; the fact remains that it is essential to identify, explain, and know how to use that framework.

Finally, according to author Bertrand Duperrin, an optimal way to incorporate Big Data in human resources practices is:

“[…] not everything should be put into the hands of technology to reduce people to a couple of numbers. On the contrary, the power of technology should be used to analyze jointly factual data and subjective feelings to objectivize things and make more informed decisions.”

Harnessing Big Data

Although data can be collected from a variety of sources, the most effective and ethical way to better understand your staff would be to optimize the information collected and supplied by your employees. Some companies are currently integrating Big Data into their HR service offerings so that evaluations are designed to allow for data collection right from the start.

For example, the IBM® Kenexa® Talent Insights by WatsonTM Analytics allows users to explore talent data by using predefined and personalized questions that are common in the field of human resources. These easily accessible elements made available by Workforce Analytics can be presented visually in order to help HR experts optimize their decisions with efficient analyses of their staff. ESPI is also a proud partner and supplier of IBM analysis products. These tools will enable you to make more informed decisions and predictions regarding, for example, your existing and future talent.

With the appropriate planning and proper usage of these new technologies, organizations will be able to secure a promising future for their HR talent management.

Sofia Benjelloun

Sofia Benjelloun
Communication officer


1Fayon, D., & Tartar, M. (2014). In Transformation digitale: 5 leviers pour l'entreprise, Pearson Education France. 298 pages.

2Harvard Business Review. (2013). The Bid Data Opportunity for HR and Finance. Harvard Business School Publishing. 12 Pages.


4Lambolez, C. (n.d.). Dossier spécial Big Data. Web Consulté Août, 2015.

5Nisen, M. (2013, May 6). MONEYBALL AT WORK: They've Discovered What Really Makes A Great Employee. Business Insider. Web. Consulté Août, 2015.

6Lambolez, C. (n.d.). Dossier spécial Big Data. Web. Consulté Août, 2015.

7Bertrand, D. (2013). Sur les RH, les analytics, Bigdata et...Moneyball. Web. Consulté Août, 2015.


9Buckner, D. (2015, February 26). CBC News. Big data trend now being applied to managing human resources. Retrieved August 7, 2015.

10Guillaud, H. (2013). Consulté Août, 2015.