Big Data: The key to effective employee engagement

Still don’t know what ‘Big Data’ means?

More than 56% of UK HR Directors and Managers have stated that they honestly don’t understand what Big Data is and how it relates to their every day activity, as revealed in a recent study by Talentia Software.

This term is being used with increased frequency in several industries. Most times, it’s assumed that readers understand its complete meaning and its applications, when, in fact, that isn’t always the case.

Big Data represents a massive volume of information, constantly building up from our every activity. The distinct quality of such a volume of information is that it gives us predictive capabilities, through different types of processing.

Human management systems have the ability to use this data to identify patterns and establish links between productivity, engagement, wellbeing, management styles etc.

The technology is here. What HR managers need to do is figure out what information they want to access and what goal it will serve.

For example, if I want my team to be more engaged with what they do by increasing team communication and feedback, I have to find out what motivates employees, what my team’s main engagement drivers are. Based on that information, I can build a strategy that increases team communication. In other words – collect data, analyze data (using an employee engagement software) and implement a measurable strategy.

Big Data: an invaluable HR asset

HR is oftentimes thought of as an intuitive function. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s true that many HR decisions are focused on individuals and bear this subjective aura that it impossible to quantify or analyze. Or so we thought.

Workforce analytics, or HR Big Data, is the key to that problem. It finds a way to organize all those instances where HR decisions were made, compare them to workforce trends and improve HR processes.

“Just as advertisers and retailers are using data from customers’ online and social media activity to tailor their shopping experience, organizations could soon start using workers’ personal data—with their permission—to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues.”

 Anthony Bruce, HR analytics leader at PwC

Big Data brings an immense value to three key HR processes: talent acquisition, learning and development and employee engagement.

How to use Big Data to increase employee engagement

Managing human capital is perhaps the second most important focus that a business should have. Making profit is its reason of existence but how to get there is the entire business journey. With employees being your no.1 resource, it’s only logical that you invest in them.

The value that Big Data brings to managing employees is in identifying and analyzing the relation between engagement and retention. How and why people are engage with what they do, how does that translate into the business metrics and what you can improve to retain them. These are the key insights that can transform the way you do business, courtesy of Big Data.

“Earlier, when CEOs and CFOs talked, the conversation was based on solid data. HR conversation, however, was merely anecdotal. Now, thanks to data analysis, HR is able to spot trends, make predictions, create a roadmap to succeed and have conversations with other C-suite members of the company based on solid facts.”

Shaswat Kumar, partner, Aon Hewitt via Business Standard

Big Data is not an ethereal notion. Cloud-based software solutions make it possible by collecting, processing and organizing information that HR managers can then interpret even further.

Now that you know why you should be using workforce analytics, here’s how to get started:

Have clearly established HR goals

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Lewis Carroll

That used to be how HR worked. Now, you have the means to find the right road for your company. But first, you need to decide what you’re going to need to get there.

Set clear KPIs such as:

  • Retention Rate
  • Voluntary Attrition Rate
  • Happiness Index
  • Tenure (years)

Correlate these KPIs with your business goals and collaborate with other business functions to make sure you’re on the same page.

Find the right solution/system/platform

According to a recent study, 88% of surveyed HR Directors use online surveys to measure employee engagement. Digital has become our second nature and businesses have a lot to gain from it, if they leverage it properly.

For HR managers this is a great benefit. Online tools allow for bigger flexibility in collecting and storing information. You can access it anytime, from all types of devices and you can reach employees regardless of absences, holidays or meetings.

Collect data

Spend time collecting data and getting employee feedback. Big Data isn’t the same as one-time-fast-survey data. Get employees involved and gather the right information. Set a timeframe for data collection.

Make sure you have employee buy-in when implementing a new HR software solution, so that data collection goes smoothly.

Measure it

After you start getting relevant analytics, over the timeframe you’ve set, correlate it with your initial HR goals and see if you’re meeting your milestones.

Design and implement strategies to help you get there. Here are some employee engagement ideas that you can draw inspiration from.

Adjust and re-plan

Asses your performance and adjust next year’s strategy based on the data gathered and the results your strategies generated. Fine-tune your system, set new goals and see if there are any improvements you can make in data collection and measurement.


A key requirement for HR today is to be strategic in contribution to business objectives. Intuition-based decisions are not the standard anymore.

With the analytics systems available now, Big Data means more sophisticated HR processes that can focused efforts in the right direction, to achieve maximum results.

This data is especially valuable in employee engagement, giving HR managers key insights into how they can improve productivity and increase retention.

Our advice? See the big picture, explore the systems and platforms available and use technology to fortify the strategic role of HR.

Image credit: Ars Electronica under C.C.2.0