diving inAccording to Gartner, big data is high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making. Or, in simpler terms, big data refers to data sets that are too large and complex for organizations to manage within standard IT systems.

No longer just a buzzword saved for finance and techie folks, “big data” is a hot topic on any HR professional’s agenda lately, specifically in regards to what it can mean for performance management. As more organizations realize that employee performance is a driving factor in organizational success, companies are starting to shine light on their Human Resources departments. Executives and managers are asking for relevant and timely analytics and accounting from their HR practitioners to properly track and monitor the progress and status of employee and organizational objectives.

A sea of opportunity

The key thing to know about big data is that it can mean enormous opportunity – particularly in the world of talent management. Big data allows HR departments to examine past statistics and uncover trends. By gleaning wisdom from events that happened in the past, HR professionals can make better decisions about the future.

Research undertaken and published by Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte showed that while 60% of companies surveyed have chosen to invest in big data and analytics, less than 20% have analyzed any of the data they’ve collected. Companies that do use big data effectively to manage their human resources see big gains in reputation as well as market returns that are 30% higher than the S&P 500, according to an article in Forbes.

Bottom line: If your organization is not already taking advantage of the many opportunities that big data can offer, it’s time to take the plunge.

Look before you leap

While there are big rewards to be gained from using big data, there are drawbacks too, especially if human resource departments jump into the data without a plan. Data management and reporting can be complicated and it takes time to draw useful conclusions from existing data. When it comes to talent management, decisions can’t be made based on quick assessments of your analytics. Proper data analysis is very important and takes a significant investment in time up front. When organizations aren’t willing to spend the time really sifting through the data carefully, disastrous decisions can result.

Test the waters

So, how do you get aboard the big data ship? With your eyes wide open! The first thing to do is figure out what you want to figure out. The possibilities are endless! From determining who to hire, to knowing how best to retain and develop existing talent, big data affords HR professionals the insight to make better decisions. Organizations are now using big data to gain insight into things such as the correlation between pay and performance, to what types of individuals make the best candidates for leadership roles. Once you have determined the questions you want answers to, it’s time to “get deep” with your data.

Make a big splash with big data

Measure what matters

To begin, ensure that your organization is measuring data that will be relevant and meaningful in answering your big HR-related questions. The simplest way to do this is to use an employee performance management tool that automatically tracks the metrics you want to understand better. With a completely flexible tool like emPerform, you can create your own HR performance metrics to reflect what is important in your organization and determine what is driving corporate success.

Start to generate reports

Using talent management software like emPerform, you can also create reports and analyze employee performance data quickly and easily. emPerform includes a library of on-demand, pre-built (or canned) reports and also offers powerful ad-hoc reporting capabilities. You can easily access and use these reports as you make decisions in your various activities each day. For example, the reports can be used to help ensure that you have the right skills and competency mix where you need it most, monitor employee goal and development status in real time, and cross-compare manager ratings for calibration. The data can also be used to perform “what-if” analysis when you are weighing to pros and cons of different options before a program or policy is put into place.

emPerform includes employee performance reporting and dashboards to help you make the best decisions based on your HR data. Click here for a free trial or to learn more.