What Does Dark Data Mean For HR?

What Does Dark Data Mean For HR?

Dark data is predicted to be one of the emerging tech trends for 2017. As businesses explore more ways to transform talent management processes and slowly move towards analytics, the swathes of information contained in dark data may prove to be the missing piece in the recruitment jigsaw.

Gartner defines dark data as the ‘information assets organisations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes’. It is used, inactive information found in unexplored files including e-mails, messages, spreadsheets, pdfs, audio and video files. For many companies this data lies dormant and discarded but the insight it contains may inform and drive future talent management and hiring decisions.

Deloitte’s reportDark analytics: Illuminating opportunities hidden in unstructured data’ highlights the opportunities in dark data but warns that within three years’ time the sheer amount of data available may prove to be unmanageable. Veritas estimates the cost of managing ‘untamed’ data at up to $3.3 trillion per year collectively by 2020.

Dark data in hiring

Used effectively dark data can offer vital insights into talent sourcing and retention patterns. Data that is lost or ‘goes dark’ may disrupt hiring processes. It may be something as simple as the lost CV of a qualified candidate or a missing vital background check that extends your time to hire. Effective hiring processes require active, easily accessible data to reduce the amount of time employees spend duplicating or recreating information they can’t find.

In considering the potential use of dark data in your hiring processes, keep in mind the following:

Clarify your problem : Deloitte recommends identifying the problem you wish to address before delving into your dark, or unstructured, data and decide what data sources might help in resolving it. Focus questions on one specific area and ensure it is measurable and of value for your hiring process. Extracting samples from a selected data source will help to quickly indicate its potential value rather than attempting the impossible and time consuming task of pouring through an expanse of information. For example, a paper based onboarding system may contain invaluable insights into why new hires are leaving your business within the first six months of employment. Too broad an approach will be overwhelming.

Be aware of risks : Historical recruitment data that is not easily accessible or securely stored could expose your business to issues with data protection. Information on former employees for example may not be needed again but must be stored appropriately and securely. A formal policy relating to the storage of data during the hiring process is essential. Veritas found that that over 25% of employees store personal data in corporate resources which may infringe on data privacy or copyright rules. 20% of employees also use personal devices to store business data. That may be vital dark or unstructured data lost to HR.

Incorporate technology : Paper based or manual recruitment processes add to the expanse of dark data generated every day. Korn Ferry notes that less than half (48%) of businesses use applicant tracking software in recruitment. Without those systems or basic technology, dark data risks adding to inefficiencies in hiring processes rather than offering added value. This may still be a step too far for hiring teams inching towards the use of people analytics, or who have yet to harness the insight available in basic recruitment metrics. Deloitte’s Global Talent Trends report for 2017 shows that 85% of companies have usable data but only 9% have a ‘good understanding of which talent dimensions drive performance’. Dark data may be the key to understanding those dimensions.

About the Author:

Kate Smedley

Kate Smedley is a freelance copywriter specialising in HR, HR Tech and recruitment, with 18 years of previous experience as a recruiter. Kate also works with employers to identify problems in hiring processes, offering full support and advice throughout the recruitment cycle.


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