Big Data Adoption in HR: Barriers to Overcome

Big Data Adoption in HR: Barriers to Overcome

This article was updated on July 16, 2018.

It seems as if everyone is starting to realize the power big data has on decision-making and developing a competitive advantage. Well, almost everyone. Big data adoption in HR has been slow to catch on. According to Deloitte, 14 percent of HR departments are using data analytics, whereas 77 percent of operations, 58 percent of sales and 56 percent of marketing organizations are already onboard.

Plug the Gap

This big difference gives rise to the question: why is HR slow to adopt big data when there are so many examples of HR organizations using it to help drive their businesses forward? According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Defense Acquisition University uses data to determine the most cost effective places to conduct live training. Juniper Networks uses data from LinkedIn to monitor skills of former and potential employees. Before FedEx acquires an organization, it uses data to add a "people fit" element to the acquisition decision.

These stories reflect how widely HR can benefit from big data's use. Even with the clear advantages, HR has been slower to adopt big data than other departments.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon HR leaders to understand these barriers and install initiatives that overcome them. HR leaders can implement three specific initiatives to increase big data adoption.

1. Develop New Skills

There is often an over-reliance on intuition and experience when making decisions. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), the biggest issue with "trusting your gut" is that people almost never put those instincts to the test. How can you know if your instincts are correct if you always trust them? Trusting something blindly is risky, no matter how much success it has brought.

The problem is that HR teams generally do not have the skills to use data for making decisions. The CHRO can help their team become more data-driven by investing in big data learning programs. One way to start is with online learning. For example, has an entire category on data analysis.

Another place to turn for learning is vendors. HR leaders should request training from their HCM vendor that covers reporting features, and how analytics can be used, to help HR discover insights and make better decisions. Another option is to seek training from vendors that IT uses. It's probable those vendors have training courses that the HR team could benefit from.

2. Start Small

Big data adoption in HR requires technical resources. The best way to acquire more resources is to start with a small project tied directly to a key initiative and show results. Juniper Networks spearheaded an initiative that focused on using big data to improve talent management effectiveness, in a highly competitive Silicon Valley market. Juniper used the information "to better understand career paths and then apply that knowledge to influence recruiting." This early success led them to add "more analytical features for both individual users and businesses."

By targeting a small project, at a mutual strategic objective like talent management effectiveness, it's easier for IT to free up resources. And once results are shown, you can establish a case for more resources.

3. Make Time for Strategic Thinking

It's difficult to take on new, important and non-urgent initiatives when fires need to be put out today. However, organizations cannot move forward if everyone is always reacting to urgent, transactional tasks.

HR leaders must break their teams out of this cycle to spend more time thinking strategically. HBR notes how managers can become more strategic. HR leaders need to encourage their teams to make time for strategic planning and lead the way by scheduling time regularly to get out of the day-to-day and think about bigger issues. Regularly could mean many things, but the more time spent discussing advancements and improvements, the more likely they are to be carried out.

From Big Data Laggard to Leader

Although big data adoption in HR has been slow to catch on, there is enough evidence of HR teams using data analytics to move their organizations forward that the benefit is clear. By understanding the reasons why HR teams have been slow in adopting big data, you can formulate a specific plan to start leading the charge toward a connected world instead of lagging behind it.