Big Potential for Risk With Big Data

AdamsenHere is an excerpt from an article written by Max Mihelich for Talent Management magazine. Big data represents increased efficiency and deeper talent pools for organizations. But one talent analytics expert, Al Adamsen, says the potential risks may outweigh the gains. To read the complete article, check out all the resources, and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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Using big data can mean big gains for business — if it’s done right. Analyzing the vast digital sea of available information correctly gives organizations the chance to develop robust internal talent pipelines, make well-informed external hires, or, like at The Walt Disney Co., align traditionally disparate groups to improve organizational efficiency.

On the other hand, if an organization tries to bite off too much with big data, it runs the risk of becoming distracted from priorities that matter most, according to Al Adamsen, a thought leader on workforce analytics and executive director at consultancy the Talent Strategy Institute.

Adamsen spoke with Talent Management about the state of big data, its benefits, challenges and why some organizations should approach it with caution. Edited excerpts follow.

What is the state of big data? What are the possible benefits and challenges?

Big data in HR has been talked about a lot lately, and it will continue to be talked about a lot. Big data has big potential. My initial question for leaders is, “Where should we be spending time and resources, particularly when there are other priorities that can better serve your organization?”

Fast forwarding two years down the road, the organizations that are able to handle big data in HR and talent management are going to have a distinct competitive advantage in recruitment and development. However, big data is like teenage sex: Everyone’s talking about it, but no one’s really doing it. That’s essentially the reality that exists in most organizations. It’s nice to talk about, but it’s not where the attention can and should be placed.

What can be improved in the big data arena?

Understanding where talent is in the open market, as well as within your organization. The ideal scenario is that organizations look internally to fill a particular role, especially if it’s an elevated position. However, the data within an organization to actually do that search is limited.

Historically, we’ve tried to embed skills databases, experience and so forth within employee profiles on a human resources management system. LinkedIn has really turned the world on its head. And people are putting value in it. Organizations that are able to mine that and truly build mindshare will be at an advantage.

Could one of the challenges of big data be the large amount of information available and not having the ability to sift through it to make it useful?

Absolutely. There’s so much data out there, there’s so much distraction, so much noise, how do I, as an analyst, find the meaningful signals? Those signals, in some cases, are hard to come by, particularly if HR analytics and workforce planning is not approached in a systematic, disciplined way. Sometimes organizations get distracted instead of focused. If you’re doing planning and analytics well, it heightens focus and reduces risk.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Max Mihelich is an associate editor at MediaTec Publishing.

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