Big Data Can Help Answer Big Questions

160353810If you’re like me, you’ve noticed the phrase “Big Data” appearing everywhere these days. It refers to the massive amounts of difficult-to-analyze information collected by businesses, government agencies and other organizations.

You are a part of the Big Data phenomenon if you shop on Amazon or Apple or if you use Google or Yahoo or if you are on Facebook or Twitter. Our purchases, “likes” and actions become the data used by companies to predict how we will behave in the future.

Big Data is helping residents of Boston improve their neighborhood streets. Volunteers use the Street Bump app to collect road condition data while they drive. The city then aggregates the data across users to provide real-time information to fix short-term problems like potholes and plan long-term investments.

A company called Sportvision has developed FIELDf/x, a means to digitally track and record the position of all players and every hit ball in real time. By pairing live camera feeds with object recognition and tracking abilities, then feeding its observations to computers, FIELDf/x is able to pull objective, quantitative data from the game. For the first time in the 150 years that baseball statistics have been kept, ball clubs will be able to objectively measure how quickly players react to the ball, how quickly they throw it while fielding and even keep track of where it goes. All this data could change the way players are evaluated … and valued.

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How much Big Data are we talking about? According to the Digital Universe report issued by International Data Corp. last December, the amount of digital data produced — uploaded smartphone pictures and YouTube videos, ATM transactions, Facebook “likes” and more – is expected to grow from 1.2 zettabytes in 2010 to more than 40 zettabytes by 2020.

So, Big Data is everywhere. How valuable is it for businesses?  A recent McKinsey Quarterly report said “When companies inject data and analytics deep into their operations, they can deliver productivity and profit gains that are 5 to 6 percent higher than those of the competition.” But In the same report, McKinsey said “companies are buried in information” and struggling to use it.

What does this all mean for the staffing world? It means we need to do a better job of using data to help us find the talent we need and make the right hiring decisions. Those are big challenges, especially when you consider that by 2020, approximately 50 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be comprised of contract workers and that the supply of critical skills in engineering, math and science will continue to dwindle — three of every four open positions in 2020 will require a higher skill level than today.

Is Big Data the “silver bullet” that will help staffing firms prepare for tomorrow’s workforce? Time will tell. Meanwhile, here’s a question that every staffing firm – and their clients – need to be asking themselves:

Is the data being collected today by your organization helping you find and hire the talent you need? If it isn’t, then you need better data.

MORE: Big candidate data helps your staffing firm win

Kathleen Martin
Kathleen Martin is vice president of managed programs for CDI Corp's Global Staffing Services business. She can be reached at Kathleen.Martin (at) cdicorp (dot) com.

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