Using Big Data Smartly: Hitting It Out of the Park Using Big Data for Talent Management

Using Big Data Smartly: Hitting It Out of the Park Using Big Data for Talent Management

This article was updated on Aug. 22, 2018.

We live in a data-driven world. Just consider the advertisements that target us while visiting Facebook, or the shortest-route recommendations provided by our phones while driving to work. We constantly are relying on the collection and analysis of big data to help us live better professional and personal lives.

Another example of data's use to gain a competitive edge is in one of my favorite sports: baseball. Data is collected on the type of pitch about to be thrown by a certain pitcher to a particular batter, and is used by coaches to position their fielders aligned with the anticipated outcome, maximizing their potential to make a successful play.

Understanding what data can provide

While it's common practice in baseball and other sports to analyze large amounts of data to get the most out of a team, many HR leaders are not considering the insight data analytics can provide to better inform their own human capital management decisions.

This is particularly true of midsized organizations, which may not have the resources or tools required to adopt a more data-driven approach to how they attract, engage and retain highly qualified workers.

For midsized businesses, data analytics can be most useful in helping to identify trends in recruiting, hiring, reporting, compensation and retention as well as competency gaps. While leveraging big data to help benchmark compensation in a particular role or industry is a good start, if HR leaders can feed even more information into the system, they can start to uncover a deeper story.

For example, HR leaders can cross-reference information — such as their organization's retention rates, turnover, and compensation — to determine the overall health of a specific employee group or department. Focusing on the reasons for turnover could give HR managers a better understanding of what they might do to improve employee engagement and retention. For example, they may need to raise compensation if their firm is below the industry standard in their region, or consider refining their benefits offerings to help retain top talent seeking non-financial rewards.

Another key area where big data can help midsized firms enhance their talent management strategies is using it to identify their greatest flight risks. For example, midsized businesses seeking to retain staff in difficult-to-fill, highly skilled positions can use predictive models to pinpoint key employees most likely to leave based on their commute or a range of other factors. These insights empower HR leaders to offer specialized benefits or more flexible work arrangements to help keep those highly skilled employees engaged and satisfied.

Key steps midsized employers should take as they start leveraging big data include:

  1. Clearly define which questions the organization hopes to answer with data analytics. By focusing on the specific business issues executives want to better understand and solve, HR leaders can more easily identify key data sources.
  2. Ensure the data collected is both accurate and relevant to the HR trends the organization wants to evaluate. A good place to start is by establishing a talent benchmark that maps out all employees in the organization, their position, tenure and salary.
  3. Connect with colleagues in departments outside HR, such as sales and finance, who can provide additional data. Collecting and combining as much information as possible could lead to deeper talent management insights.

Find solutions that make sense for your business

With a wide array of data analytics tools on the market, it's also important that businesses choose a solution their HR professionals find easy to use. Most midsized businesses do not have a dedicated data analyst on staff, so they should look for solutions that focus on the data most interesting to their HR leaders. Dashboards that show attrition rates, compensation levels and hiring metrics — and enable organizations to compare themselves to other organizations of similar size — are particularly helpful.

While some intangible human elements will always play a role in talent management, smart use of big data can empower organizations to uncover potential red flags in time to take action. Armed with the data, employers can take a lesson from baseball and make smarter business decisions that will help them recruit and retain top performers in an increasingly competitive labor market.

This post was written by Marc Rind, Chief Data Scientist and Vice President, Product Development at ADP and appears on