Psychologists on Big Data in HR

Posted by HR Analytics on Thursday, October 17, 2013 Under: Org Psychology

Recently, I was asked about the role of I/O Psychologists in HR analytics and this whole "big data" movement. And so what I am learning as I researched the topic, and just as I had suspected, is that there are many others in the I/O Psychology field who are also involved in HR analytics and big data. I think I/O Psychologists are in a very favorable position in this big data movement.  The required graduate-level statistics courses are really helpful in preparing I/O Psychologists for the quantitative and analytical requirements of big data science.  These courses provide a really good foundation for doing applied statistics --basic stats, descriptive, multivariate, and advanced stats.  These are approaches that are now used for personnel selection, for testing validity and reliability, and for other organizational metrics and analyses.  And now with big data in HR, these statistical techniques come in handy for making correlations, developing models and algorithms, and for measuring the impact of HR on overall organizational metrics.  Big data brings an opportunity for I/O psychologists to expand beyond HR and into the other areas of the organization.  Big data brings plenty of opportunities to investigate relationships between HR variables such as job satisfaction, attrition, demographics, etc, and overall business productivity.  HR itself doesn’t have to have “big” data but it’s the automation and digitization of business transactions that open up these opportunities for analytics and data science in HR.  What often makes it “big data” is the combination of all the data that are available such as HR databases, survey data, competency assessments data, recruitment data, point-of-sale data, financial data, data from social media, customer satisfaction data, and so forth and so on--pretty much anything that can be captured and measured.  The ability to make sense out of all this data, to find the correlations, and to distinguish what’s significant and what’s noise are the necessary skills one (or a team) must have in dealing with big data. I/O Psychologists can now say that those sleepless nights spent learning stats in grad school are finally paying off in this big data era. Predictive Analytics is nothing new


One aspect of the big data movement is predictive analytics and I/O Psychologists are, again, in a very favorable position because the I/O field has been doing predictive analytics for about a hundred years now.  I/O Psychology has been in the business of predicting job fit and predicting performance and so predictions using analytics and statistics is not at all unfamiliar territory. The training I/O Psychologists get on regression, correlation, cluster analysis, and factor analysis are all very useful in doing predictive analytics.  
Another useful competency that comes in handy for I/O Psychologists when it comes to dealing with big data and analytics is having a solid understanding of psychology.  Not only is it advantageous for I/O Psychologists to do cognitive or personality psychology as they’ve done in the past, but with big data, there’s an even bigger opportunity to do more psychology including social psychology and even behavioral economics. Big data needs interpretation and psychologists can put to use their understanding of psychological theories to interpret the findings, explain the correlations, and even build models.  
I/O Psychology is still growing


The field of I/O Psychology has been continually evolving since its inception in the 1900s.  It has adapted to a variety of major societal shifts and events including World Wars 1 and 2, Civil Rights Movement, the Internet, the big developments in psychological theories before the turn of the century such as B.F. Skinner’s behavioral theories and positive psychology, and now this ongoing Big Data era.  There’s a niche for I/O Psychologists in big data and it’s a very nice fit.  And there is also plenty of room for growth for I/O Psychologists wanting to get a better handle on big data and develop additional skills.  Because there’s so much data out there and there’s so much that can be done with the data, it's helpful to have database management skills such as being able to extract the data (i.e., SQL skills), manipulate and clean the data, and also utilize advanced tools for reporting and visualizing data (i.e., dashboard, infographics, etc.).  Being able to communicate with IT and talk IT-lingo, or even better, depend less on the IT department should be helpful as well.  


Another area where I/O Psychologists can really make an impact is in strategic HR management.  I/O Psychologists can play a significant role in linking HR analytics to the overall strategic plan of the organization.  


Big data/analytics is still a growing and evolving phenomenon.  And it’s really BIG as in as big or maybe even bigger than the Internet itself.  For I/O Psychologists involved or wanting to get involved in big data, there are many opportunities so find your niche, use those stats skills, use your understanding of psychological theories, gain more big data skills, and bring that very unique perspective to the big data table.


In : Org Psychology 


Tags: i/o psychology  big data  analytics 
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