By Richard Shea, Managing Director EMEA Search at Futurestep

Now more than ever, big data is at the forefront of conversations across a host of industries and sectors. Where marketers once led the way in exploiting data to fine-tune their strategies, those in recruitment and HR are seeing the value in adopting such approaches, with many using the data they have collected to help them improve an organisation’s recruitment function and to demonstrate the return on investment of recruitment activity. Something which in turn will benefit the wider business and its goals for success.

We are now in an age where the amount of recruitment and employee information is rising exponentially and the most forward-thinking HR departments will be finding ways to harness this data as a resource, deriving true value from the information available. HR functions are awash with reports, whether it’s those from Applicant Tracking Systems or talent management software, but whilst this data can provide a snapshot of the current situation they are not sufficient to inform strategic business decisions. But now, thanks to some new exciting start-ups and an increase in the knowledge and technology needed to analyse big data, HRs are beginning to reap the benefits of putting data into the heart of their decision making.

Big data opens all kinds of doors. HR departments that invest in the tools as well as the people who can tap into the data available to them, can benefit from a highly streamlined talent management process. Whether gathering insight on the drivers of performance and retention or collecting and analysing invaluable statistics on what talent is best to hire, HR managers have a wealth of information at their fingertips.

At the recruitment stage gathering the right data can aid decision-making that will evolve the recruitment function from reactive to proactive, to better align with the business strategy and to drive as much predictability into the system as possible. This can be anything as simple as businesses using data to concentrate search efforts on the most specific type of skillsets, which means that recruiters only spend time talking to relevant candidates. Not only does this mean a great deal of hassle is removed from the recruitment process, but it also allows hiring managers to extend their reach and increase the chances of finding the best talent.

But it is not just at the recruitment stage that HRs can benefit from data, either. By incorporating it into wider talent management strategies, big data can be harnessed to give a clearer picture on the development of the company’s workforce – from the on-boarding stage right through their careers, whilst highlighting skill gaps which may need filling in order to take the company forward. Not only will this lead to improved career development and a more engaged workforce, but can also reduce staff turnover.

Big data makes businesses smarter, whilst in the long-run saving precious resources. It is time that recruiters embraced the capabilities of big data to ensure a 21st century approach to recruitment and development. Those that extract real value from employee data to improve operational performance will the ones who come out on top.