What’s the Big Deal About Big Data?

By: Nathan Wiita

Big Data. Analytics. People analytics. These are increasingly popular buzzwords in today’s corporate lexicon. And as sexy as these words may sound (or maybe not), data has been a foundational component across industries for quite some time. In fact, Big Data isn’t so new at all, as experts in finance, healthcare, and supply chain management would attest. What continues to evolve, however, are (1) the technologies with which we can capture and analyze data and (2) the domains to which Big Data is brought to bear.

Given the amount of capital spent on personnel, the progression toward the use of Big Data analytics for all things people related seems retrospectively obvious. This progression, as it turns out, is perhaps better described as an explosion. A recent study conducted via LinkedIn, for instance, found that the number of people analytics professionals has grown 500% over the last 10 years. Also, nearly half of Fortune 1000 organizations have a dedicated people analytics function—and more than half of them started in the last five years.

To date, people analytics has brought data-based insights to domains such as recruitment, retention, and performance evaluation—though more often than not for large groups of non-executive employees. Given that the senior executive population is by definition smaller in number proportionally, it isn’t terribly surprising that this analytics focus has centered more on people than leaders.

The question becomes, then, what does all of this mean for senior executives … or people who are in the business of identifying, retaining, developing, and evaluating senior executives? Shedding light on this not-so-easily answered question is the primary purpose of an upcoming panel at the Annual Conference of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), in Anaheim, CA, on April 14–16.

With experts from organizations such as Google, Starbucks, Ticketmaster, and Infor, we’ll explore both strategic and tactical implications for a domain we’re calling leader analytics—or the use of analytics for senior executives, their teams, and ultimately their organizations. More specifically, we will ask high-level questions such as “What are the implications of the people analytics movement for the assessment and development of senior executives?” We will also discuss practical considerations around issues such as data sensitivity—especially important given a senior executive population.

Ultimately, our intent is to generate a conversation and shared understanding of a domain that is truly getting off the ground. We hope to see you there!


Have a question for Nathan about this SIOP panel? Ask him on Twitter @NathanWiita


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