“Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.”
A quote by Charles Baggage from the 19th century that remains relevant today. His relevance was highlighted in 2011 by a group of researchers from Britain that proposed a multimillion-pound project called “Plan 28” to construct Charles’ proposed analytical engine. The field of human resources, much like every other field, is continuously impacted by the shifting trends in data science. To put plainly, even if you make use of a simplistic data set as an HR professional, it remains more impactful than not using data at all.
At the start of each year, we are flooded with an array of trends from various agencies and research organizations. In the past decade, we have seen a significant increase in stand-alone data trends and data science as an ingredient in human resources trends. So, what are the key data trends that we as human resources professionals need to be aware of, and how is it changing our role?
Even the most basic google search on data or human resources trends will produce a long list of published insights from Gartner, LinkedIn, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review, to name a few. In this blog, I would like to highlight five key data trends and their impact on the role of human resources.
The first reported data trend speaks to moving away from big data to smaller data sets. Big data still play a critical role as technology processing power increases. However, the resources required to perform big data analytics are often only available to large global organizations. As a result, the literature suggests more data-centric models are being used in conjunction with machine learning to optimize the size of meaningful data sets. For HR, this means a shift from people analytics to data literacy. Various literature suggests data literacy among HR professionals is becoming a bottleneck. A great example is considering what is the essential data sources needed to produce insights instead of collecting vast data that often remains unused.
The second trend focuses on data-driven customer experiences and how during the COVID-19 pandemic, investment increased in data management. This includes aspects such as artificial intelligent (AI) chatbots, cashierless convenient stores, and an increase in personalized services. Employee self-services and HR chatbots have become the new norm, resulting in HR needing to translate employee experience data into meaningful and targeted employee value propositions.
The third trend refers to the big convergence. This is essentially how technology like AI, the internet of things, cloud computing, and 5G are fuelling digital transformation. Technology enables smart homes, cars, offices, health care, factories and even cities. Recent infamous cases like amazon’s biased hiring algorithm and Uber’s facial recognition app that allegedly discriminated against ethical groups, therefore increasing the importance of the role of HR to support organizations in using technology for good. This requires HR professionals to challenge both HR technology as well as business technology to ensure fair and transparent employment practices.
The next trend I would like to share is machine learning, in which we are seeing trends where digital tools are being developed to enable anyone to use machine learning applications to develop innovative solutions through insights in their field, where they might not have the coding skills. These applications can automate repetitive coding with the potential of even producing data cleaning functionality. This trend re-enforces the “skills economy,” which has received so much attention of late. As HR professionals, we need to re-invent people practices focussing on skills instead of jobs and, even more importantly, develop the interventions to prepare the workforce for a fundamental shift.
The last trend I would like to share is the continuous shift from reflective or analytical analysis to more predictive strategies, where we use data to predict and conduct scenario planning instead of using data to understand the past. Some interesting trends are appearing on “Digital Tracking” where organizations are recording, reviewing, and evaluating employee activities. As the era of “clock-in systems” is disappearing, new digital tracking technology is challenging employee privacy, efficiency and significantly increasing our understanding of meaningful work.
In summary, recent data trends tell us that human resources need to reinvent, reimagine, and reignite how we shape impactful human resources roles.
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"I am an International Human Resources executive with a proven track record of partnering with board members, chief executives, and management teams to drive a significant increase in business performance across a diverse range of industries and markets. Experienced in designing and implementing impactful change and business transformation programmes at various scales. As a Human Resources professional, I am passionate about the role HR plays in transforming organisations through modernizing people practices. With over 17 years of Human Resources experience, my expertise ranges from business partnering to specialized work in various centres of excellence; with experience across Financial Services, Retail, and telecommunication; and exposure to various landscapes such as Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. I hold a Master's in Commerce with a specialization in Leadership Performance and Change. From my early years founding a Human Resources Student Association to being recognised in 2016 by the Institute for People Management's "Human Resources Practitioner of the Year Excellence Award". Over the course of my career in human resources, I have developed a deep passion for the impact human resources can have on transforming organizations in disruptive times."
Scottish Qualifications Authority, UK
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