Reverse Cowboy: Let Loose the Big Data #BigDataHR

This week on Blogging4Jobs, we are focusing on the theme Big Data sponsored by Jibe. Jibe provides cloud-based recruiting technology solutions that enable talent acquisition teams to strategically identify, attract and engage candidates. Join us April 10th 2014 at 3pm to talk Big Data on Twitter using the hashtag #BigDataHR and join our webinar, “What’s the Big Deal with Big Data in HR & Recruiting” on April 17th at 11a EST. Follow the week by bookmarking us!

Here in America we love the mythology surrounding the cowboy don’t we?  We fetishize John Wayne heading out onto the prairie, the rugged Marlboro Man (minus the cigarette in this day and age) sitting astride his horse, and even Billy Crystal, of all people, hanging by the campfire in “City Slickers.”  The lone hero riding the range, wrangling the cows back home and tucking them safely into the corral speaks to us.

Reverse Cowboy: Let Loose the Big Data #BigDataHR


And HR folks love to be cowboys. Or cowgirls. Oh not in any sort of maverick way (heavens no!); rather we head on out into the workforce, gather up little wandering nuggets of employee data and bring them back home to squirrel away in our HRIS, lock them into our metal personnel files, and enter information into our spreadsheets.

We shelter and protect and hide all the information we have; keeping it safe from rustlers and other evil denizens of the wild wild west.

We need to stop that.

Rather, we need to pull a reverse cowboy and let that data loose.  Unleash it into the organization to roam free and attach itself to other bits of data.  For only by correlating and matching our HR data with organizational data can we truly hope to have an impact on business strategy.

Saddle Up

We need to make sure our HR data is clean and accurate, particularly when we have a large and dispersed workforce. Do we have a common understanding of what our HRIS field definitions or internally used terms ‘mean’ – home department, location, reporting relationship, etc.? If we have multiple divisions with some employees in matrixed reporting roles where do we want those employee to display in our reports – assigned to Division A or Division B?   Manager A or Manager B?  Get it sorted out.

Unfurl the Lariat of Big Data

Do we know where all our data is stored?   If data is stored in multiple systems, we need to bring it together. Our HRIS, ATS, and LMS are traditional repositories, but what about spreadsheets that HR team members may be using to track data that isn’t stored in the HRIS? We need to think about where we’ve stored information such as recruiting data, productivity statistics, tracking of safety incidents, or cost per hire measurements and wrangle it.

Git along little dogies

Correlating and matching HR data with other information from across the organization is the next step. Think about sales results and how they match up with organizational hierarchy such as offices, regions or divisions. Gather information on service trends, product shipments, or customer surveys that may show satisfaction levels or reflect a lack of training//knowledge in a region or department. An in-house call center manager is surely tracking number of calls per day, customer satisfaction, and time spent on calls. There are human/employee factors at work in all of these areas and HR needs to be working in alignment with the departments who measure these business metrics.

Yippie Yi Yo Kayah

Rather than just launching an expedition take the time to plan how your HR data syncs with other organizational data. Who and what impacts HR and how does what YOU do impact others?  How do changes or improvements across various business units impact YOUR success?  Move beyond the traditional reporting of historical data (headcount, turnover, time to fill…yawn) and view your big data collection and sharing as an organizational wide – forward focused – endeavor.

Now get out there and ride the range.

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Robin Schooling

Robin Schooling, SPHR, with 20+ years of HR leadership experience, is Managing Partner of Silver Zebras, LLC and blogs at HR Schoolhouse. She works with organizations to develop integrated HR and Talent Strategies for business success.


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