During the past couple of decades, the business world has undergone a staggering amount of change and development. Among the quick surge of incoming innovation, one trend has influenced the way businesses are being run in an almost unprecedented way - the widespread shift towards data-based insights and processes.
Lately, ‘big data’ has been a very popular catchphrase in the corporate circles. But what is big data?
In theory, it’s a rather simple concept to define - it represents huge data sets coming from a variety of sources that, when analyzed, can be used to solve many different business problems and drive the decision-making process. In practice, however, big data is incredibly complex and takes a lot of skill and highly sophisticated tools to collect and analyze.
But once you manage to tap into its potential, big data can significantly help many aspects of your business - product development, customer experience, security, and, not least of all, human resources.
Gathering and analyzing specific sets of data on your employees can prove beneficial from an HR perspective for many reasons. Just think in terms of employee retention, talent acquisition, job satisfaction, compliance, performance, and the interconnectedness of all these areas.
Now, the question is: How do you collect all the necessary data?
One way is to make use of time tracking software as a starting point and one of the sources for gathering structured data and quantitative information about your employees. We’re going to discuss how this can be accomplished shortly.
According to the traditional definition, big data is characterized by volume (you get a lot of data), velocity (you get it fast), and variety (you get it in many different forms). As we’re about to see, time tracking software ticks all three boxes.
The volume of data refers to the amount of information you manage to collect. Within the context of big data, this amount is, well, big. But the exact size of your HR data sets will depend largely on the number of employees in your company.
Time tracking software is capable of providing huge amounts of information. The number of different kinds of data depends on the type of software you have and we’ll discuss the possibilities later on, but the really great thing about this system is that it collects data on every single employee you have. If you have 3,000 employees, you’ll get 3,000 data sets.
Of course, you can aggregate this data on any level for easier overview and analysis, but the fact remains that you’ll end up with a detailed time tracking profile of each employee. All of these reports and pieces of information can either be stored on cloud or, if you wish to have a greater control over the volume of data, on your own servers.
The high velocity of big data means that its inflow is very fast, which lets you analyze and act on the insights very quickly. This aspect is less crucial for HR than it is for, say, security, but it’s still important to be able to access current data and make timely decisions.
Even though a big part of time tracking software functionality are daily and weekly reports, which are also the easiest to analyze, you can still access all the data in real time. You can see all the changes immediately and get the necessary insights at any moment.
This way, the influx of data never stops and you get new pieces of information all the time, which enables you to remain current.
Finally, the variety aspect of big data refers to the fact that you get information from many different sources and in many different forms. What time tracking software typically gives you is structured data, which means that it’s quantifiable and that the pieces of information are highly relational to one another. Let’s go over some of the various types of data that this software can gather.
Obviously, you can get a lot of time-related employee data, including time on tasks, total time on projects, billable hours, the ratio of active to idle time and information about employee attendance such as clock-ins, clock-outs and overtime.
Other forms of data that you can collect are related to budgeting, the frequency of use of different apps and websites, and even productivity metrics. You can obtain some unstructured data as well if necessary, such as screenshots.
All of this can provide a pretty holistic picture of employees’ performance and daily work routines, and all of it is updated in real time. Ultimately, analyzing this data will prove useful in many segments of HR - compliance, performance, employee efficiency - and it might give you some indication of the underlying reasons for some observed trends, like high employee turnover or low productivity.
Once you implement and start using time tracking software, the data will just keep coming. Which is why you need a concrete strategy to handle big data and use it to improve HR processes.
The steps in handling big HR data that you’ll need to take include preparing the infrastructure, getting the tools and hiring the talent to analyze the data, and then collect, iterate, analyze and act on the insights in order to effect change.
Of course, time tracking system can’t be your only channel for gathering big data - you’ll have to combine it with other different sources to get a truly complete picture of various aspects of your workforce. Once you have this, you can proceed to look for patterns and gain actionable insights. From there, it’s just one step towards making informed decisions that will positively affect your business and your employees.
Big data seems to be the future, not just of information technology, but of other aspects of business strategy like HR. It’s about time you started choosing the method to obtain this data about how your employees perform their jobs, and one of the most effective ways to accomplish this is with a time tracker software. Once you have the data, it’s just a matter of careful analysis before you get valuable insights that have the potential to change your business for the better.