HR and benefits professionals need to start using big data to move their own departments and their companies’ end goals forward.

“You are not going to be a successful HR leader in 10 years if you don’t get data,” said Mike Bollinger, vice-president of HCM transformation and thought leadership with Oracle during the Human Resources Professional Association conference in Toronto this week.

The theme of his presentation, What's the Big Deal with Big Data, looked at how HR practitioners can use big data as an analytical tool to better drive not only their department and workforce, but the company as a whole.

Also see: Hiring managers use data analytics to increase employee retention

Bollinger cited survey results from the Economist Intelligence Unit that said organizations that make data-driven decisions are more likely to be stronger performers than those that make decisions that are more instinct-driven.

“You have to have data to make good decisions,” he stressed. “But at the end of the day it doesn’t change the art of going with your gut.” Still, added Bollinger, people who use data to go with their gut do better than those who do not.

The Economist survey further stated that not only is it important for HR and benefit professionals to use data but to use the right data. They say that predictive and trend data is the most important, while things like real-time and qualitative data fall at the bottom of the list.

Also see: 3 tips for using workforce science to attract and retain talent

Expectations of HR and benefit practitioners are changing dramatically, noted Bollinger. “We are expected to be change agents and I would suggest we have to provide the same scientific rigor to our internal employee population as we do to our customer data,” he said. With that in mind, HR practitioners need to be good diagnosticians, he added.

Joel Kranc is director of KRANC COMMUNICATIONS in Toronto, focusing on business communications, content delivery and marketing strategies. He may be reached at

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