By definition, your human resource department is a resource for the humans you employ. Though it may sound anti-intuitive, to be the best human resource possible, your department needs to rely more on something not-human: technology. Technology can augment and complement human reasoning skills and decision-making processes by providing information that otherwise wouldn’t be available—especially big data. Big data may sound daunting to manage, but it’s a tool that’s becoming increasingly more important on the HR side of things.

The Trouble with Diversity

Today’s workplace is extremely diverse. There are candidates who never got a formal degree but have years of valuable industry experience and candidates who don’t have much experience but have a good education. There are candidates who’ve worked in highly visible roles in low-visibility companies and candidates who’ve worked in entry-level roles in acclaimed companies. Some candidates don’t have quite the right background but may have some transferable skills; some candidates look perfect on paper but in reality, leave something to be desired.

This puts a human resource department in a difficult situation. When it comes to recruiting and retaining employees, what should HR look for? What combination of qualities is found in the candidate who will be the best fit for the job–not just now but for years to come? It’s hard for humans to gauge the qualities necessary for the right candidate. It’s far less difficult for non-human big data software to do so.

Examples of Use

Once the human resource department decides to use big data, they have to figure out where to start. The chosen big data software and the way it’s used will depend on a variety of factors: budget, culture, industry, and object of the data-mining. In the end, the choice needs to be made by the users themselves. As a starting point, though, here are two examples of companies who have used big data to recruit and retain effectively:

  1. Google: With all that data at their fingertips, Google’s big-data successes are impossible for most companies to replicate, but they do set an inspiring precedent: they use big data gleaned from search histories to reach out to passive candidates. For example, Google employee Max Rosett was originally not interested in applying for the search engine mogul. However, seemingly after analyzing Rosett’s recent Google searches, the search engine offered him the chance to solve some programming exercises, which eventually led to a Google recruiter contacting and hiring Rosett.
  2. Xerox. Xerox increased employee retention by using big data. They analyzed their data to find the “secret sauce” that made the perfect fit for their customer service position. “The result? Employees who stuck with their jobs longest tended to be the ones who lived nearby and had reliable transportation.” This useful data led to Xerox being able to screen candidates for those who best matched their criteria, lowering their turnover by a full 20%.

Big Data Is a Tool

It’s tempting to push back against using big data in human resources. In some ways, it doesn’t seem to belong in the hiring process, which is so very people-oriented. However, just like a PC or a smartphone, big data analysis is a tool that can be used to get a job done more effectively. It’s not a replacement for humans since human employees are needed to analyze and act on the data. “Of course one needs the right tools, but the most important thing is the people who know how to connect these data points. Recruiters are needed who are able to ask the “machine” the right questions—and who also know what to do with the answers,” notes Talentor.

Remember, although using big data to make recruiting decisions may seem intimidating and perhaps unnecessary, tools are invented to help us complete work. When it comes to recruiting and retention, big data is a perfect tool for finding the best fit, so don’t hesitate to use a non-human factor in selecting the right human for the job.

Read more: Why HR Needs to Understand These 4 Data Points To Move Your Business Forward