A survey of senior HR Directors and Managers from private sector organisations in the UK including the financial services, retail, transport, telecommunications and food and beverage sectors has revealed a lack of understanding about what the term ‘Big Data’ refers to and how to harness this for corporate advantage. Over half (56%) of respondents advised that they do not understand the definition of the term, specifically in relation to a HR environment.

This finding is particularly notable in light of the employee retention benefits that Big Data can offer, as 85% of respondents to the same survey also stated that they are actively looking for ways to improve employee engagement. An overwhelming majority (93%) also felt that HR should be given greater organisational focus and represented at board level, and that doing so would demonstrate a commitment to people, values and talent.

The survey was recently undertaken by Talentia Software, the award-winning supplier of business management solutions, which sought to gauge industry views on the latest HR issues from senior practitioners. Julie Windsor, Managing Director at Talentia Software UK, states, “The effective use of Big Data can bring with it a wealth of benefits for organisations, including understanding engagement levels, improving employee retention and internally identifying individuals with the appropriate skill levels to support others. With these advantages in mind, it is clear that HR has much to gain from harnessing the abundance of data that is now made readily available via technological advancements.”

HR practitioners responding to the survey were also asked for their views on the collaboration that exists between HR and finance departments – a question that was previously addressed in a survey of 130 UK Finance Directors and Chief Financial Officers. While 54% of finance respondents felt that greater collaboration was needed, an even greater number (94%) of HR professionals called for the two departments to work together more closely to optimise company performance, with respondents indicating that finance needs to take a more strategic approach.

In response to broader industry issues, 81% of respondents stated that annual appraisals for employees are not yet a thing of the past, but that the frequency and formality of the process is changing. The survey also revealed 39% believed that less resource was committed to HR activity by organisations during the course of the recent economic downturn.

“The results of our latest HR survey throw up a number of interesting findings – not least that a large number of the senior HR practitioners believe that HR and finance departments need to work in greater partnership with one another in order to achieve organisational objectives,” adds Julie Windsor. “Developments in technology are increasingly enabling firms to gain an enhanced understanding of the people behind the firm and how the individual contributions of each employee feeds into the achievement of company goals. These advancements present a significant opportunity for HR teams to be at the very heart of firms as key strategic partners.”