Big Data in HRM – A big responsibility

Guido Heezen

We often have conversations with thought provoking leadership. For the most part, we have these talks to share ideas, and build perspective. A lot of the conversations start off a little like this: “Effectory has a wealth of information. You’ve been doing employee surveys for so many different organisations over the years. Why not do a secondary analysis and publish it? For example, you can dive into how productivity and absenteeism are related to gender, age and length of employment. “

Big Data in HRM – A big responsibility

We understand that there’s this innate sense of curiosity that comes about. But we’re also very careful with the information that we publish from our employee surveys and its relation to the labour market analysis.

Red hair

Suppose that we were less careful. We could make matrices and connections between all sorts of factors. We might discover – and this is purely unfounded nonsense – that red-haired staff are clumsier than employees with a different hair colour. If we were to make statements like this, it can easily take on a life of its own. Before you know it, lines of ginger haired people, tightly gripping cardboard boxes of family photos and favourite pens, are filed out of the building, left jobless because they tripped on an upturned carpet that one time. Demonstrations ensue, and the chairperson of the action group against discrimination of clumsy redheads makes fiery appearances on talk shows. Red hair, is soon synonymous with protests and misery.

The lunacy of the above anecdote aside, this is why we don’t publish findings on how gender, age, or length of employment for example, are related to things like productivity, engagement and commitment. If we would know which groups of employees are the least effective in their work, it may mean that these groups of people are excluded from the labour market – for the obvious reason that they pose a risk for the organisation. We know this, and that’s the last thing we want to contribute to.

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Social impact

This isn’t to say that we don’t conduct any secondary research at all. For example, we investigate the hidden potential of employees in a variety of ways. There are interesting results that we publish about. For example, last year we compared organisations that have a traditional hierarchy, with organisations that made the transition a more flat autonomous structure. The later seem to have employees with a much higher engagement and commitment. We publish information like this because we can give organisations an idea of the growth and potential, that is possible within their organisation.

In addition, we also publish results that could enable organisations to reverse negative developments. For instance, based on our research, we know that the average level of engagement and commitment per employee drops when they are employed for more than two years. This insight allows organisations to address these developments. Or when employees understand that their management knows what is happening on the ‘ground level’ increase their commitment. And when those managers take the initiative to ask their employees to think about possible solutions to problems, commitment increases.

Growth potential

Therefore, we are so careful about publishing large-scale labour market analyses based on our employee surveys. But when a sensible contribution of to society can be made, we don’t hesitate to share. We want organisations to get to know their growth potential and to get started with working towards increasing the engagement and commitment of their employees.

About Effectory

Based in Amsterdam, Effectory is Europe’s largest independent employee survey provider, with over 20 years of experience in helping organisations become sustainably successful. We believe the key to sustainable success, is through gathering and listening to employee feedback. To facilitate this, we offer a variety of feedback tools which enable companies to learn from their employees and improve from within. In 2016, Effectory conducted over 600 employee surveys globally, with +1.5 million respondents in over 40 languages. Effectory is mission-driven, and we pride ourselves in having engaged, passionate employees with a very open, honest and trusting working culture.