When it comes to big data, it can be easy for HR leaders to get drowned out by IT pros, security officers and the C-suite. Why? Because while HR is sitting on a data set gold mine — salary information, performance data and employment history to name a few — they're often considered outliers in the world of tech, more concerned with soft skills than hard data. How does HR find a voice in the big data discussion and help empower data collection efforts?

Recognize the Value of Your Data

The first thing HR teams can do is recognize the value of their data. Think about it like this — every organization wants opportunities for optimization, ways to make processes run more smoothly, take less time or generate more profit. And while customer-centric and technology-focused data sets are critical in this effort, what's the underlying component of any process, any procedure, any profit? People.

"The most important part of any organization is its people," says Marc Rind, vice president of product development and chief data scientist for ADP. "If you want to understand if an organization is optimized, you have to understand what is going on with your people." As a result, the data generated by HR is of critical value to any forward-thinking organization.

Combine Data From All Departments

HR data also has a critical role to play in empowering cross-functional data use. As noted by Forbes, HR data can now be leveraged to predict future success, empower workers and move from simple analytics to more complex strategy building. People-focused information can help break enterprises out of the silo mentality of data collection, where each department guards its own data sets by assigning unique terminology, sorting strategies and refusing to share information with other corporate spheres unless explicitly ordered.

According to Rind, however, if HR data is used to "mix" existing sets by making people the unique identifier across departments, it's possible for enterprises to "have that common denominator to help them collect data throughout the organization." HR can empower other departments to gain better insight and provide a way to cross-link critical data resources.

Use Data to Your Benefit

Finding a voice in the big data discussion also comes with benefits for HR departments. According to Bizcommunity.com, HR data and analytics ranks among the top three areas for HR expenditure. Clearly, there's some measure of value, which starts with the ability to sort and analyze massive data sources — such as social media — to empower staffing decisions and employee engagement. As noted by Bizcommunity.com, Xerox Corp. was able to cut its call center attrition rate by 20 percent using big data analytics.

But there's another level of value. Combining "classic" HR data with new data from production, manufacturing and sales departments provides new insight into employee performance. For example, using HR data might inform HR leaders that a particular employee is experiencing performance issues. In isolation, however, this data doesn't encompass problems along the supply chain that may directly or indirectly affect the ability of staff to do their jobs.

Maybe you're seeing lower-than-average reviews from consumers about sales staff, but upon inspection discover that supply issues prevented or delayed product delivery, something the employee could do nothing about. Using people as a unique data identifier may help root out employees who aren't the best fit or have a negative impact across multiple departments.

People are the core of your organization. "There will always be attrition, but there are certain people that make your business hum. Keep the people who got you to where you are," Rind says. By recognizing the value of HR data and finding their voice in data collection, HR teams can help tear down silos and build up talent in your organization, in turn driving better long-term strategy and decision-making.

See some of the ways organizations are making the business case for people data to their stakeholders, check out the guide Proving the power of people data.

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Tags: HCM Strategy Reporting and Analytics big data