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Human Resources (HR) is one of the most important fields in any industry because its business is people—helping people maximize not only their own potential but also their companies’ potential. As a result, few areas in business have as much to gain from big data as HR does.

As a freelance technology writer, with a master’s in communication studies, I’ve been fascinated in writing on topics which specifically highlight ways in which big data and machine learning are affecting the human experience. Many of the pitches I receive highlight exciting, high-level ways that big data and machine learning will affect our lives. But to be frank, I’m far more interested in understanding how these things can, and will, affect us now.

Big data is sweeping the business world, revolutionizing everything from marketing and sales to product development. And HR is no exception. Big data has the ability to touch, and improve, every facet of a company. Here are some of the ways Big Data can be leveraged in HR right now to bring the field into the future.

  1. Increase Employee Retention Rates

Hiring is an expensive process. Recruiting and referrals alone cost an average of $4,000. And it’s not just the search for talent that’s expensive—the training and onboarding process is too. There can also be disruptive ripple effects throughout an organization as other workers get accustomed to the new hire and before things settle into a comfortable rhythm.

If a company goes through the trouble and expense of hiring someone, hopefully that someone will stick around. Increasing retention is all about ensuring employees are happy in their roles and feel taken care of. Big data can help with these goals.

Some companies, including giants such as Walmart, leverage internal data from surveys, performance reviews, pay history, and other areas to predict which employees are most likely to stay or leave. These predictions can then be used to target employees for raises, bonuses, or other perks that encourage them to stick around. More importantly, the information can also be used to avoid workplace patterns that perpetuate employee turnover.

  1. Eliminate Bad Hires

Hiring the wrong person is one of the costliest mistakes a business can make. In addition to the onboarding costs mentioned above, an employee that’s a poor fit for the company can lower everyone else’s productivity and morale and affect your business’s bottom line.

The US Department of Labor puts the cost of a bad hire at 30% of the employee’s salary. And many C-level executives feel that the impact on morale and productivity is even costlier. Prescreening candidates using big data analytics can help minimize the chances of hiring a poor fit. The data can also help companies attract stronger candidates by improving tone of voice, branding, and outreach strategies.

  1. Place Employees Where They Can Be Most Useful

Using data analysis to determine where employees will be most effective isn’t a new tactic. Google has been doing it for years with Project Oxygen, an initiative that uses data analysis to find and grow potential management candidates. Project Oxygen has been highly successful—in an antimanagement culture, Google convinced employees of the value of management using data from the program.

Helping people reach their full potential is one of the cornerstones of HR. Any tool that makes this process more reliable and efficient is of enormous value. And that’s exactly what HR departments have now in the form of big data.

  1. Maximize Productivity and Morale

Data can help HR teams maximize productivity by pinpointing what makes workers feel most rewarded. It’s been shown that happy employees are more productive, so anything that keeps morale and motivation high should be leveraged to its fullest potential.

Every company has an HR component to it and big data can be applied to almost any company, no matter its size. Ultimately, the goals of any HR team are to help employees get more done and minimize company losses. The insights that businesses gain from big data analysis can be uniquely leveraged by HR teams to drive these goals. The next step to integrating big data into your HR department is to make a strategic plan based on your company budget and needs. You can check out SAP’s big data offerings to see which works best for you. Ensure you have the correct processes in place to then implement the learnings gleaned from your big data analysis to reap the full rewards.

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