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Is Your Big Data Big Enough?

Big Data. Everyone wants it. It sounds cool, just like big job, big promotion, and big profits. But what’s Big Data in the world of people?

For most talent management pros, big data is about piling together all the infobits from resumes, interviews, tests, assessments, biohistory, credit (where permitted by law), security clearances, etc, etc, etc. Or what your third grade teacher used to refer to, solemnly, as “your permanent record.” (That covers a lot of bandwidth.) Then you mix it all together, put on your hardhat with the flashlight in front, and go datamining. That’s supposed to help you make sense of the Big Data by finding the common threads that lead to success, however you’ve defined that.

When your data doesn’t give you strongly reliable information, most data people just go back to the source of all data (people and their digital footprints) and add some more into the pile, mix well again, and re-mine. Sometimes that works. Not always.

For the intrepid dataminer, the alternative to just giving up is to look for sources of new data to supplement your existing data. Think of that new data just like you think of vitamins or whatever you might use to supplement your meals. (Okay, you can count coffee. Or chocolate.) It doesn’t replace what’s on your plate, it just makes it more. More nutritious? More exciting? More yummy delicious? Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

For talent management Big Data, let’s start by thinking about what would add those very supplements to the data we already have. (We’re going to do a little translation here so we know what we’re after.)

For vitamins, let’s substitute engageability. Note, we’re not asking people how engaged they are. We want to know how they are going to engage – to what end? When we know that, we’ve got a more nutritious mix. (You can find that data in someone’s Teamability report under Role.)

If coffee is your supplement of choice, let’s think the excitement of challenge. We want to know how much excitement someone needs because an exciting job will be very stressful to someone who hates change. And worse, someone who needs lots of challenge and stimulation will be bored at a more sedate job. Where do you think this expression comes from: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Oh yes, those times I had a sedate job, sedate being for me a challenge to really mix things up. But I digress. (That data will be found in that same Teamability report under Coherence.)

If nothing will do for you but chocolate, you are definitely wanting more yummy delicious in your culture. But wait, there are all sorts of chocolate. High cacao, less cacao, even fancy bars with bacon in them. How do you know what to look for? (Try that same Teamability report under the Teaming Characteristics section.)

Big Data can be great. Big Data about people can be really great. But Big Data PLUS Teamability metrics will answer questions beyond what Big Data can do alone. It will overcome the unintentional biases and shortcomings of resume reading and behavioral interviewing, inform your choices about individuals and teams, and give you a whole new bunch of management methods that will help both your people as individuals and your bottom line.

When that happens, you’ll know your data is the right size for your business!

© 2018 Dr. Janice Presser. This blog is reposted from the April 16, 2018 entry on with permission. 


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