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Big data has taken the business world by storm in recent years – to the point where the global market is forecasted to reach a whopping $103 billion by 2027, more than doubling its value in less than a decade. From healthcare to manufacturing to retail, almost every industry benefits from big data, and the world of HR is no different.

Big data is revolutionizing how HR teams discover and manage problems by providing insights into employee behavior and patterns, which is helping companies increase retention rates, engagement levels, and overall employee performance. But exactly what is big data? What are some of its applications in human resource analytics? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is “Big Data?”

Big data is a term used to describe the large volume of data that organizations now have at their disposal. This data can come from a variety of sources, including surveys, social media, sensors, transactions, and more. And thanks to advances in technology, it’s now possible to store and analyze this data in a way that wasn’t possible before.

At its core, big data has three key characteristics: volume, velocity, and variety.

  1. Volume refers to the sheer amount of data that organizations have to deal with. Thanks to the proliferation of devices and the Internet of Things, this number is only going to continue to grow.
  2. Velocity refers to the speed at which this data is generated and collected. In some cases, it’s important to be able to analyze this data in real-time to make decisions.
  3. Variety refers to the different types of data that organizations have to deal with. This can include everything from text to images to video.

Applications of Big Data in HR Analytics

Since HR departments have access to a broad spectrum of both structured and unstructured data, such as employee information, billing information, and engagement scores, there are numerous use cases that big data can fulfill, helping to drive value across an organization by assisting HR leaders in making more accurate decisions. However, in order to properly comprehend how big data is revolutionizing HR analytics, it is necessary to first answer the question, what is HRIS?

HRIS stands for Human Resources Information System and is the name given to software that is specifically developed to assist organizations in managing their employees’ data and the ever-changing HR market. HRIS software makes it easier for companies to keep track of employee duties and responsibilities and to conform to labor laws by automating and consolidating employee data into a centralized system. HRIS systems frequently contain performance management and recruiting tools, making the system a one-stop shop for almost every HR requirement.

Now that we know what HRIS is, let’s take a look at some of the ways that big data is changing HR analytics:

Identifying Trends in Employee Behavior, Uncovering Issues Early, and Improving Retention

By analyzing employee behavior and trends, HR professionals can flag potential issues and take steps to address them. It’s important to bring attention to employee behavior and trends early on, as this can help prevent bigger problems from arising. This is especially useful in the case of employee turnover. 

By analyzing data on why employees are leaving, HR teams can identify issues and take steps to address them to help improve retention rates. Of course, this is a big priority for HR departments since high employee turnover can lower morale and decrease productivity. Moreover, studies have estimated that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it costs between six to nine months’ salary to replace them. Big data can help to reduce these costs.

Improving Engagement Levels

Whether through breaking down internal employee data or analyzing the wider market, HR professionals can identify key areas where they can improve employee engagement by acquiring a better understanding of needs and wants. As a result, HR teams can ensure that they’re providing an environment that is conducive to productivity and engagement, which could include anything from ensuring clear career progression opportunities to offering more flexible working arrangements, such as WFH and hybrid working schedules.

Improving Performance

Big data can help HR departments identify and address employee productivity and performance issues. By analyzing data on a granular level, HR professionals are able to identify any negative trends and work to address them. This data-driven approach will enable business leaders to improve performance in a number of ways, such as by lowering absenteeism and reducing the need for training and development programs. In turn, this can lead to a more productive and efficient workforce.

Making Better Hiring Decisions

Finally, big data insights can help companies make better hiring decisions. By understanding which characteristics and skills are most predictive of success in a role, HR leaders are able to screen candidates more effectively and target their recruiting efforts toward those most likely to excel. Big data can even help HR teams discover candidates that are more likely to fit in well with the company culture by analyzing patterns in the behavior of current employees.


Big data in HR enables organizations to make better decisions regarding hiring, firing, and managing their employees. Businesses can now detect patterns that might otherwise be invisible by analyzing data from employee surveys, performance reviews, and social media platforms. This enables businesses to make more informed decisions about compensation and benefits and which employees may be a good fit for specific roles. As a result, the workforce becomes more engaged and productive, which is good for business and the bottom line.

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