Never Mind Big Data – Small Data Can Be Valuable Too

We’re hearing lots of noise about Big Data these days, with its ability to give predictive insights to business operations. But Small Data offers insights too.

Companies like Google, Oracle and other tech giants are capitalizing on Big Data to drive their own strategic decision making in areas like hiring and workforce management.  Yet for most companies, much of the most meaningful data that an HR department could use to improve company performance is both small in scope and readily available.  Things like employee turnover within departments to identify bad managers, total time it takes to hire and train new recruits in each department, how much overtime is being used by certain employees or employee groups, and lots of other data that can point to opportunities for company growth or reducing wasteful costs.

These are just small data points that are meaningful, and that are looked at regularly and are easy to understand. A commonly recognized example of this is retail operations:  they are always looking at inventory turnover … if you turn over inventory quickly then you’re doing a good job, if not then you need to make some changes.

However, whether it’s meta (Big) data or small data specific to one division or company department, in both cases you do need help from an automated data collection system. For Google, due just to the nature of their business, everything they do is automated and every piece of data entering their vast system is parsed in every possible way. But most companies don’t enjoy the luxury of megalithic servers running endless algorithms that crunch your numbers at billions of bits per second. Unless your company is running enterprise software that includes built-in Analytics, it’s hard to do the research and number crunching on your own.

Once your workforce grows beyond about 200 or 250 employees, you are going to need some kind of HRIS software to help you with onboarding, recruiting, leave tracking and the dozens of other functions that constitute HR Management. If you’re shopping for that kind of software, be sure to ask about its capabilities to harness your data into useful, actionable intelligence. Look for Workforce Analytics features to yield the kinds of insights that make HR a valuable team member when it comes to executive and strategic decision-making.


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