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HR professionals must become data fluent to maximise Big Data, says expert panel

ADP perspective paper highlights opportunities and challenges presented by HR Big Data

Effective use of Big Data could give HR professionals an unprecedented influence on business strategy, according to a panel of experts brought together by ADP, a leading global provider of Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions. However, HR professionals must become more ‘data fluent’ to make the most of the opportunities that good use of data will present them with. 

ADP’s recent perspective paper, ‘Big Data in HR: The big questions being asked’, is based on a panel discussion between leading expert HR thinkers and practitioners. Panellists included:

  • Dr. Max Blumberg, Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London; and Founder, Blumberg Partnership
  • Dr. Anthony Hesketh, Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor, Lancaster University Management School
  • Matt Stripe, Group HR Director UK & Ireland, Nestlé

Despite a diversity of views, the panel broadly agreed that HR has not traditionally harnessed data and metrics effectively. Big Data, they argued, has the potential to transform HR by providing deeper people insights, informing business strategy and giving HR increased influence in the boardroom.

But the expert panel agreed that HR needs to become more ‘data fluent’ to truly realise the potential of Big Data. While an increasing number of HR professionals are now acquiring the necessary mindset, too many lack the numerical and analytical skills to deal with this new area of focus.

The expert panel argued that an ability to ask the right questions, make sense of Big Data and provide meaningful strategic insights will enable HR professionals to engage more effectively as a strategic partner and help shape future growth of their business.

Some even went so far as to say that HR Big Data will have an increasing role in financial reporting and investor relations, as effective analysis of HR driven Big Data and related figures becomes more widespread. The next generation of HR Directors and professionals will need to be comfortable having conversations with the City and business stakeholders.

Commenting on the findings, David Foskett, Managing Director, ADP UK, said: “Using HR Big Data effectively could potentially allow HR professionals to better anticipate organisational changes and provide real strategic insights. Yet there is still a lack of understanding about its possible uses, as well as the tools and expertise required to make sense of it. What is clear is that the influence of Big Data is only going to increase in the coming months and years. We believe that HR professionals, who start preparing sooner rather than later, will be in the best position to capitalise on it."