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How Big Data Can Make a Big Difference in HR

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Big data has become a necessity for many businesses, but some human resources managers don’t rely on it because they see their role as something different: connecting to the employees and the company. In their book, The Data Driven Leader: A Powerful Approach to Delivering Measurable Business Impact Through People Analytics, Jenny Dearborn and David Swanson say failure to incorporate data into the HR function can be costly to managers and the company. Dearborn, chief learning officer and senior vice president at SAP, discussed the book on the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the full podcast using the player at the top of this page.)

 An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: Do you see this book as a teaching tool for companies and their human resources department?

Jenny Dearborn: Yes. It really is designed for executives across all the different functional areas, but especially for HR. It’s HR professionals who are supposed to be monitoring and coaching and encouraging the right behavior for leaders across the company.

Knowledge@Wharton: When you think about how leadership and HR work together, what links big data between the two?

Dearborn: Historically, HR departments have been run by wonderful people who are great people-people. They are great at the human interaction. They’re great at being empathetic. They’re wonderful at caring deeply about how people feel, and that’s fantastic. But to be a competitive differentiator moving forward, we need to move beyond that. We need to use all of the tools available in order to be more effective. Every other functional area in a business is using all of these resources, all of the data and insights. HR needs to use that, too, for their primary responsibility, which is to groom the leadership skills across the company.

Knowledge@Wharton: Does this require HR professionals to change their point of view about their roles in the company?

Dearborn: Absolutely. It really is taking HR departments by surprise, which is part of the motivation for writing this book. It’s trying to give my peers the tools they need to keep up and be effective. One of the pieces of research that I cite in the book is that in 2016, for the very first time, more than 50% of the newly appointed chief human resources officers did not come from HR.

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Article Credit: K@W

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