You’re not as big as you think

HR likes a fad, like a fat boy likes the cake shop and similarly gorges and over indulges until all proportion and perspective is lost. Sadly I’ve witnessed a few of these over the years and my fear is the latest one is the much misunderstood and misused term “BIG data”.

I’m certainly not anti data, or anti analytics. And I’ve said before that an HR person who “doesn’t like numbers” is a bad HR person.  I just think the idea of data being BIG in HR is a bit of a myth.

Why? Well, let’s start with the numbers:

59.3% of all UK employees are employed in SMEs, each employing less than 250 employees.

18.8% of the remaining 40.7% of those employees are employed in the Public Sector the majority of whom are in parts of the sector with no integrated HR or employee data management systems or holistic analytical capability.

Which leaves us with 21.9% of the UK’s employees very few of whom are employed in organisations of significant scale. So if they want to be playing with BIG data, they’d need to be capturing a shed load (and a half) of employee data sets.

Which, I can tell you, most of them aren’t.

So what happens? Instead of focussing on the real questions and issues, we make daft statements such as, “talent analytics and big data are must have capabilities in HR”  when the fact is that most organisations don’t have anything vaguely approaching big data, in fact, they have relatively small data.

And then our press, our journals, our conference organisers and our professional bodies create the impression that everyone else is doing something, when the reality is that they’re not. Yes organisations may be doing data analysis, but that’s no different this year than it was last year or the year before.

My advice to you is to stop worrying about big data in HR. You don’t have it now and you probably never will. Instead focus on small data and BIG THINKING, taking the information that you have and being really curious and inquisitive about what you can learn from it.

The real magic happens when insight and intuition come together to create the perfect harmony of head and heart, of thinking and feeling, of gut and brain.

Not when you try to play keepy up with an imaginary trend.

Because at the end of the day, we are dealing with real people, not fads, and that’s where we make a difference.