Unlock the Power of Big Data: How to Build an Effective Workforce Strategy

Big data. We talk about it every day. We have all heard that better data leads to better decisions. Well, if it is so helpful, why are so many of us struggling to make sense of how to use big data to benefit our businesses and workforce strategy?

The problem usually is not a matter of data collection or computer analysis. Most companies face problems when it comes to asking the right questions before aggregating data, understanding what the data really show, and most importantly, having the courage to act on the data to change their business. Many procurement and HR professionals concerned with workforce management may wish they knew how to use big data the right way. Instead of relying on wishful thinking, Beeline sponsored a webinar on Thursday, August 28, 2014 to address the topic. After all, Beeline is a data-driven company and knows how to work with massive amounts of information.  Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) hosted the webinar titled, “What the “Big Data” Trend Means for Workforce Strategy,” featuring IT sourcing and vendor management expert Christine Ross. Bryan Peña, Vice President, Contingent Workforce Strategies and Research at Staffing Industry Analysts moderated the webinar. If you want to reap the benefits of big data in the context of your extended workforce needs, Christine Ross provided insight into how to use big data to create an effective strategy.

Sourcing and Vendor Management Expert Reveals Ways to Build Workforce Strategy without Drowning in Data

The webinar began with an overview of the big data concept followed by why big data matters to workforce management. The rest was all about how to get the most from big data. Big data refers to the amount of data, the speed of data coming in, and most importantly, using different data types (because more of the same data is not helpful). That said, Christine stressed that you do not necessarily change everything because you are using big data. For example, big data will not make executing on your findings any easier. It also should not affect the business purpose you have for the data. Again, the problem does not seem to be about collecting data. In fact, a poll of attendees revealed that 64 percent have some sort of analytics or data team in place. Seventeen percent of those polled rely on their VMS. This begs the question, “If data collection is not the problem, what is?”

Don’t Rely On Big Data Unless You Ask These Questions First

One theme repeated throughout the event was that most people do not prepare themselves to use big data effectively. Do you think you are ready to use big data? Do you know the answers to these questions?
  • What are the right questions to ask before aggregating data?
  • How do you understand what the data really show?
  • How do you act on the data to change your business?
  • How do you use “big data” to create a workforce strategy that will give your company a foundation for success?
In other words, you need to decide why you are collecting data, how you will interpret it, and what you will do with it. Otherwise, you risk missing an opportunity to gain valuable insight about how to create effective workforce strategies.

Wondering What to Do with All That Juicy Data? Here is what You Should Do Next

The first thing to remember is that big data is not a magic bullet. To unlock the power of big data, you must recognize the common pitfalls and avoid them. Follow these tips to set yourself up for success with big data.
  • Ask the right questions. Make sure you ask very specific questions, but only if you intend to (and are able to) do something about it. If you cannot or will not act on what you find, you have wasted precious resources for nothing. Ask questions that give you the specific data you need. You may need more than one question or hypothesis to arrive at your answer.
  • Understand the data. What is the data telling you? Can you determine a correlation between data points or proof of causation? How big is the variation? Are there “false positives” you should beware of? Avoid running many reports in hopes that a pattern emerges. Do not twist the data to support what you want to find. Be open to questions about alternative interpretations of the data and put the data in the context of a business problem and a proposed solution to stay focused.
  • Focus on what matters. More data means more noise. One of the biggest challenges with big data is identifying what we at Beeline call “true data.”
  • Get started. This may sound like common sense, but you might be surprised how many companies collect data and then do nothing. Get buy-in from stakeholders on commitment to act on your findings.
  • Keep an open mind and stay flexible. Measure results and continue to track the data. Data changes as the world changes, so do not assume the action you take is a permanent solution. Be ready to take a different action in the future. Used correctly, big data can help you create workforce strategies that will give your company a foundation for success. We do not expect this trend to go away anytime soon, so we will be sharing more about big data – and how to use it to make intelligent business decisions – soon.