Don’t wield the axe, wield Big Data instead

Modern technologies such as Big Data and Analytics could aid in prudent hiring and thus avoid drastic lay-offs. Well-thought out and well-researched recruitment is a precursor to avoiding any future mass firings.

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A number of high-profile companies, particularly those in eCommerce, have witnessed layoffs over the past few months. What were once the dream destinations of job aspirants now evoke feelings of doubt and anxiety. Taxi aggregator Ola fired close to a thousand employees. According to reports, India's largest e-commerce marketplace Flipkart laid off 800 employees. Similarly, other enterprises and startups have been announcing job cuts in hundreds. The trend is global. Network giant Cisco announced cutting 14,000 jobs in 2017. Intel laid off 12,000 employees. Zomato and Foodpanda too fired employees. Experts attribute myriad reasons for such relentless axing, ranging from poor financials to over recruitment, although the companies themselves never accept it and always blame it on the poor performance of employees. Such an argument falls flat on several accounts: how can employees barely a couple of months old be judged as non-performers without them getting sufficient opportunity to prove themselves. In case of over-recruitment there could also be questions raised as to why employees were hired in the first place. Moreover, such decisions can wreak havoc on the career of hundreds of people.


Additionally, laying off employees hardly solves any problems. If poor management decisions were the reasons for the non-performance of a company, firing employees would hardly solve it. The organization would continue to fare poorly till the time the bad management decisions are not changed. The best tactic in such situations would be to course correct. There is no reason why employees should find themselves at the receiving end when the blame lies at the doors of the management. If market conditions are unfavorable then a wait-and-watch policy may be the best tactic. Whatever the reason, mass firing of employees doesn’t augur well for the organization itself; in fact, it is an ill-advised decision that has the potential to backfire substantially.

The axe can become a boomerang

There can be substantial collateral damage from layoffs: valuable resources may migrate to competition; anger and frustration in employees who stay back; long-term damage to a firm’s image, production, and sales. With the advent of social media, disgruntled employees may badmouth the company on public platforms such as Glassdoor and ruin its reputation. Besides, ironically, at times companies are forced to hire the same employees at double their previous salaries.


Big Data Analytics can help HR departments

Modern technologies such as Big Data and Analytics could aid in prudent hiring and thus avoid drastic lay-offs. Well-thought out and well-researched recruitment is a precursor to avoiding any future mass firings. However, with the huge number of candidates that a big company normally has to deal with, there is always room for error. Additionally, prior to any recruitment, several aspects need to be factored in such as market conditions, background checks, manpower requirement, etc. Apart from recruitment, the processing of hundreds of salaries and evaluation of the contribution of every employee for appraisals can be a tedious task, particularly in big corporations. This can lead to a veritable data tsunami. Moreover, done manually, there would always be room for error. Big Data takes this error out of the equation.

Basically, Big Data is a term for data sets that are so huge or complex that traditional data-processing methods are insufficient. Big data analytics processes those large data sets to uncover hidden patterns and unknown correlations, leading to the discovery of the interpretation and communication of meaningful market trends, candidate preferences and other useful recruitment information. Analytics uses several other forms of data that may be untapped by conventional programs, including data from the Internet, social media content and activity reports, text from candidate emails and survey responses, etc. HR firms can apply Analytics to describe, predict, and improve recruitment performance along with web analytics, employee sizing and optimization. Big Data Analytics tools are also equipped to conduct sentiment analysis on data from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. For example, if a company wants to launch a new recruitment drive, it can run the Analytics tool and find out the prevailing market sentiment at that moment and consequently take a decision as to whether it would be the right time to go ahead.


How does Big Data work?

Big Data uses mathematical and statistical tools along with algorithms to decipher trends and make predictions. The tools factor in parameters such as job history, benefits and compensation, and level of education, leading to optimization of workforce, performance assessment, prediction and maintenance of an optimal labor pool, thus helping recruitment managers decide better on who to hire and how to retain talent.

“It is difficult and impractical to expect that managers would make foolproof decisions. They can go wrong. The errors would increase the moment the number of parameters to factor in the calculations increases. Humans just can’t track and memorize that amount of data. Therefore, it’s best to leave it to the algorithms to sort it out,” said Somesh Misra, VP, Products and HR, Deskera—a leading business software provider in the Asia-Pacific, which has recently developed its own Big Data Analytics tool.


Tools such as AppDynamics and Workforce Analytics can reduce the burden of companies in several ways. Such tools can even make predictions about whether a potential candidate is ready to accept the job offer or if the prospect is only in exploration mode. In fact, such tools also track and measure other significant feed such as social media, culling information on how many times a person visited his LinkedIn page, how often the page was update, whether the candidate is looking for different jobs, and whether he is asking for recommendations and endorsements from other LinkedIn users. The tools also provide information on aspects such as whether the candidate is an appropriate cultural fit for the organization, whether the personality of a candidate is in sync with the rest of the team with respect to thoughts and instincts.

In conclusion

Investing in such tools could help companies evade going down the axing road and retain resources that are crucial to their growth. In today’s world of cut-throat competition companies need to have an edge at identifying, recruiting and retaining talent with the most appropriate skill set. With the advent of Big Data and Analytics, HR departments can generate, collect, visualize, and access data in a way that just wasn’t possible before.

In short, Big Data Analytics can take the hassle out of the everyday activities of HR departments, but most importantly they can go a long way in ensuring that the image and the reputation of an organization that takes several years to build is not tarnished.

Authored By: Muqbil Ahmar, Technology Evangelist

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