Research Library Article


Big Data for HR

David Earle

A broad, deep report on “Big Data” from Tata Consultancy Services: how it’s defined, who’s using it, where users are located, what they’re using it for, what the investment returns are, and which departments are driving usage. An excellent introduction for those who may be less familiar with the topic as well as a useful benchmark reference for those who already have initiatives underway. HR is one of the departments studied.

The study focuses on six issues:

  • The specific Big Data functions and activities targeted in different industries
  • The most important kinds of data
  • How processing and analytical functions are organized
  • Levels of investment and ROI
  • The challenges of creating business insights
  • Technology trends

Sources of big data within companies

Selected Findings

  • Big data projects are now common. Of the 1217 companies Tata surveyed worldwide, 53% (68% in the U.S.) undertook at least one project in 2012.
  • Most spending (55%) is allocated to generating and maintaining revenue (marketing, sales, customer service and new product development). HR related spending is 5% of the total.
  • Per company spending varies considerably by industry. Companies in telecommunications, travel and banking spend more than those in life sciences, retail and energy/resources. Internet driven companies (more than 75% of sales) spend on average 6 times more than non-internet driven companies (less than 25% of sales).
  • The ROI is strongly positive. 80% of surveyed companies report improved business decisions with an average projected ROI of 46%. Only 13% report negative ROI, none of them in Asia-Pacific or Latin America.
  • Data within companies tends to flow from specialists in either IT or in a separate big data group who process most (69%) of it to the business groups who analyze it.
  • The biggest single obstacle to a successful Big Data initiative is cultural: getting internal departments to share data.

Implications for HR
Talent acquisition and management are becoming quantitative disciplines. The superior ability to collect data, analyze it and use it to make better business decisions is already defining today’s most successful HR departments. “Big data” has recently joined older terms like “metrics,” “benchmarks” and “analytics” to describe this new, required competency.

HR is a modest player in Big Data today but the opportunity clearly exists for a larger role. Successful initiatives in other departments can be duplicated in numerous areas related to talent acquisition and management, for example:

  • Better identification and tracking of promising candidates in the labor force
  • More extensive internal talent mapping
  • More accurate assessments of new talent
  • Better understanding of the most effective drivers of workforce productivity
  • More sophisticated risk modeling and forecasting

Big Data initiatives are clearly cooperative partnerships between technologists, data analysts and business managers. Departments lacking technical and analytical expertise are disadvantaged when applying for corporate funding.

Table of Contents

  • Comparing results across four regions of the world
  • Findings by global industries
  • Findings by business function (includes HR)
  • Case study: General Electric


  • Greatest benefits for HR
  • Greatest challenges for HR
  • Regional interest in big data
  • North American companies with big data initiatives
  • Median spending per company
  • Where companies see gold
  • Structured vs. unstructured data

Tata Consultancy Services

Title The Emerging Big Returns on Big Data
Author Various
Date 2013
Type Survey report
Respondents Small, medium & large companies
Industries 12
Geography Worldwide
Pages 106
Sample size 1217
Cost Free
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