7 Minute Read

Big Data Breakdown

Our lives are online, in our pockets, and susceptible to big data. By 2017, the US will have almost 200 million smartphone phone using patrons, which is 65% of the country’s entire population. Why is this significant? Because smartphones and big data are taking precedent on the data pulling universe today. We store, collect, and transmit data from our smartphones. We single-handedly produce tons and tons of data every time we pull up an app, putting our lives in the hands of data analysts.

With the rate of smartphone users going up (projections predicting over 1.91 billion smartphones across the globe by next year.) One can’t help but wonder, what this means for Human Resource professionals.

Search any platform for a basic definition of big data and you will come back with a lot of hardline opinions on the matter, (as well as many vague definitions.) The opinions come from both big data critics and, of course, big data supporters. Their opinions vary on the benefits of the large analytic systems in many ways. Below we have taken some info from both the critics and the supporters of big data, in order to put all of the hard line opinions into better perspective.


Our lives are online, in our pockets, and susceptible to #bigdata. Learn more: Click To Tweet


What is Big Data?

“Big data is, a new attitude by businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and individuals that combining data from multiple sources could lead to better decisions.” -Gil Press, Forbes Magazine.

So essentially big data is a massive form of analytics that companies are using around the world to gain a better look into the consumer they are targeting.

Think of it this way: American Idol (American game show that has many talented amateur singers competing for the chance at fame) has voters/viewers text, tweet or even call in their votes to keep their favorite contestants on the show. From those calls, American Idol gains information (or data) on the viewers, simply from the means in which the viewers send their votes in. They collect endless information so they can better tailor their ads to their viewers.

Seems simple and effective right? Not everyone is a fan, though…


What the critics are saying

Big data is essentially magnifying everything a person does based upon the things they “like” on facebook, or put in their “shopping cart” on Target’s website. Big data takes all of that information in and essentially puts it out for companies to see. People are hesitant towards the massive analytic system because it leaves little room for privacy. Concerns surrounding the realm of prejudice or racial profiling in accordance to the information big data picks up, are on the table.


“Big Data not only reflects the racism in our society, it also perpetuates it. So while it’s not inherently racist, Big Data makes it that much easier for the people using it to be.” – Cecilia Esther Rabess


Cecilia Rabess isn’t wrong, big data can be racist if put in the marginalizing hands of an unfortunate company/individual. However, that doesn’t mean big data is a direct vehicle for racism, just as twitter, search engines and libraries aren’t direct sources for racism. Every new outlet for technological advance comes with some concern for the ill-willed, but the good outweighs the bad by far.

Big data is both parts frightening and empowering. There is so much information available now that makes equalizing the right and the wrong attributes merely subjective.


What HR professionals have to say on big data

“Big data for Human Resources (known as predictive analytics, talent analytics, workforce analytics, HR analytics, and human capital analytics) may be the next frontier for cutting discrimination and bias. We can’t give up on humanity to move past discrimination, but advanced technology can work in partnership with people to bridge the gap of inclusion.” -Anne Loehr, Huffington Post


Opinions aside, big data can actually help human resource professionals obtain retention in their new hires. When companies are looking for new people to hire they can use big data to their advantage by looking for specific online patterns of previous employees that were a good fit for the company.

Companies can look for similar patterns in new applicants so that HR professionals can streamline their decision-making process, and potentially eliminate high retention rates as 46% of new hires fail within 18 months. Sometimes interviewing people is not the best way to tell if a candidate is a right fit for your company. Gut feelings come into play during interviews, and a gut feeling is not always the right way to choose a new employee.


Sometimes interviewing people is not the best way to tell if a candidate is a good fit. Click To Tweet


Big data is a useful resource to harbor multitudes of data. Understanding your customer, and predicting their next want/need is the curve of innovative marketing at a crux of qualitative opportunity. Now that you have heard the worst side of big data weighed against the best side of big data. Decide for yourself. Weigh your options, are you ready to jump on board the big data train? Take this quiz to see if you’re ready.