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Big Data Will Predict Your Promotions And Career Success

Photo of Holger Reisinger
February 10, 2015
Reading time
4 minutes

You are great because you are standing on the shoulders of giants. Those shoulders are about to get a whole lot wider with the introduction of big data in human resources. By analyzing the performance data of the people that have gone before you will make sure that you do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Big data is the buzzword of the here and now. However, it is usually used when getting consumers to purchase this, that, or the other. But there is a noticeable trend, which you need to be aware of, that could save you millions in recruitment and retention of the right candidates, and make the data work for you.

Big data is not just for business: I just read an interesting article in Time magazine that some US graduate schools are starting to use the information they have from previous students and apply the outcomes on their current student body. In this way, they can quite accurately predict who is most likely to graduate and who is steering off course, in a manner of speaking. I think that this is a very interesting way of making use of big data. Big data is used in the interests of the student, who now receives advice on how to stay on the right track and access help before it is too late.

Universities save money by using big data

Even more interesting, though, is that the universities get to keep the students in school and thereby secure the tuition fee. As we all know, it is much cheaper to maintain your existing customer base than to recruit a new one. According to the aforementioned Time article, Georgia State University has increased the graduation ratio by 25 percent in just two years. This means that the university is able to keep the three million dollars they collect in tuition fees, which is quite adequate to pay for the 1.7 million dollars it has cost to build and maintain the program.

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In my opinion, this is just the beginning of big data in HR. It means that in the future, your performance and your colleagues’ performance will define your future success and failure. While the pursuit of excellence is yours and your team’s noble cause by itself, I think the why and the how are the most interesting aspects. Why do some perform better than others, and how do we optimize overall performance?

Big data improves recruitment

Once, I needed salespeople to operate a sales team for a new category. I asked HR to find some suitable candidates. They were all great, had gone to good schools, received good grades, and had great track records from their previous jobs in the industry, but with wildly different success rates on the job, though. The top performer on the team, however, was the odd one out: she came with a background in real estate, and on paper, she was a wild card. She did, however, offer attention to detail, great collaboration, and people skills, as well as a methodical approach to sales. She was a star, a veritable sales rocket.

I think that big data makes it possible for us to model our teams after top performers – the ones that do not just look great on paper – but the ones who actually have the people and collaboration skills, quality, and drive. We need to use the real strength of big data in recruiting and retaining the top performers and model their skill sets and methods to activate the potential of their peers. Then, the sky is the limit. However, we need to make sure that big data in HR does not mean that we run our human resources based on the philosophy of the movie Gattaca, where only the top 30 percent of the population was genetically qualified to be hired by a top company. That would be a scary reality.

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Big data is the future

There is much to learn from big data, and we all need to pay attention to the trends that are moving us in that direction. Big data can help us support our teams and, like Georgia State, retain and train instead of getting caught in the staff turnover trap, which is expensive and puts a strain on company culture. I, for one, am very interested in exploring the findings of past generations, and what we can teach the generations of the future. Big data has come to stay.

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