CIPDHRI recently asked a number of HR Directors and professionals what Big Data meant to them and how much value they derive from gathering and analysing Big Data.

I was surprised by the initial response.  Many had an almost visceral reaction to the whole topic.

“You can’t reduce people to numbers.” “It’s too much like Big BROTHER.” “HR is more of an art than a science.”

Others comments included:

“We’ve got some really big spreadsheets – is that big data?” “I can’t quite see how it could work for us.” ”We don’t have anyone in our team who is good with this stuff.”

Digging a little deeper, I learnt that actually the key themes were a lack of familiarity of what was possible, what the opportunities were and a lack of data analytical skills to actually do it.

It may be horribly stereotypical (forgive me), but HR tends to be drawn from those of us with ’people-focused’ backgrounds, and we tend to be short on hard analytical skills. We probably need a few more engineers and mathematicians in our ranks.

I think that there is a missed opportunity for HR here.  Most marketeers and business analysts tell us that running any sizable organisation without Big Data analytics is unsustainable.  If people are our biggest asset, then applying the same insights into our HR data must surely become a priority.

I’m speaking at the CIPD Annual Conference & Exhibition next week about this and more, starting at 3pm on 4th November in the showcase theatre.

I’ll be exploring:

  • What Big Data is – and isn’t
  • Some examples and opportunities for HR to gain analytical insight and powerful predictive models
  • Where HR is as a profession when it comes to Big data analytics (hint – not very sophisticated)
  • What’s holding us back and what mistakes we make
  • What practical things HR teams can do to build capability
  • What culture we need to adopt to make the most of Big Data within HR.

GBGThe event is being supported by GBG, and they’ll also be holding a drinks reception at stand C132 after the event at 16.00.  Do join us if you can.

Simon speaks and consults widely on the future of work and leadership and can be contacted at