The Shift Towards Using Big Data in Employment

While big data might not tell you Bob in accounting wants to write a novel, it can determine that males in his field are looking for creative ways to offset work stress.

Big data. Everyone is using it. Everyone is singing its praises, and it is, apparently, the best thing since sliced bread. While you’ve probably heard about its applications in marketing and sales, you might not have heard about the ways to use big data in employment and recruitment.

While many people believe big data is the solution to all recruiting problems, some concerns about privacy and discrimination remain.

What Is Big Data?

Big data is a term that refers to information that is collected from large groups. The internet has been a huge driving force for big data, since it has made it easy for search engines, social networks, marketers, and other organizations to collect massive amounts of information from users.

This data is usually anonymous, in that individual entries cannot be linked to one person, but they do offer unprecedented insights into trends, buying patterns, interests and more.

How Do We Use Big Data in Employment?

Every day, huge amounts of data are being collected by companies all over the world. That data is then analyzed to find trends. Based on the data these companies have on hand, they can tell you on which day people in a certain age group are more likely to buy a car in a particular city, or when a specific type of person might be inclined to start thinking about having children.

That’s great for developing marketing strategy, but it’s also being used by large companies to analyze their workforce.

These companies approach big data analysts, and request specific information on trends for their workforce, based on the city they live in, age groups, education levels and other factors. The data analysts then provide information based on the likelihood for that group to do certain things.

So, while they might not know that Bob from accounting wants to write a novel, they probably don’t need to do an employee background check to tell his employer that males between 45 and 50 in his particular field are likely to be looking for creative outlets to offset their work stress.

It’s surprisingly accurate, and even though it’s anonymous, it is a little scary that organizations out there know so much about us.

The Pros and Cons

On the one hand, companies are using information from big data to improve their health care policies, create employee wellness programs, and improve internal promotions.

On the other, big data is also telling companies when female employees may want to have babies, and things that relate directly to race, religion, or gender, or based on otherwise innocuous information in an international background check. That information may lead those companies to discriminate against employees, by passing them over for promotions, or screening them out of the employment process altogether.

It’s a double-edged sword, and it’s one that should be treated with the utmost care by every employer out there.

Big data in employment can tell you many things, but it’s no substitute for people skills, and you will always need to retain the human element in your hiring and promotion process. Because while big brother can collect all kinds of data about us, it still can’t see what we think or feel, or what we’re really like as people.

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