Big Data Can't Replace the Human Element

By Tom Huntington

Jun 23, 2022

Driven in part by innovations in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics, an entire cottage industry of “big data” companies has arisen over the past decade to provide a bevy of valuable, actionable business insights the likes of which were not previously available to key decision makers. These solutions have helped transform multiple industries, including healthcare, retail, transportation and logistics, banking and finance, manufacturing, and even professional sports.

In other words, information, as ever, is power, and the ability to intelligently analyze large amounts of data and make objective predictions that materially impact the marketplace is, well…a superpower. Data is eating the world, one (or a dozen) industries at a time, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. 

The Role of Data in Making Hiring Decisions

The field of human resources is not immune to the big data revolution, though some HR functions have been slower to embrace analytics-driven solutions than others. When it comes to the hiring process, a number of companies offer products and services that claim to harness the power of data to solve even the thorniest problems facing hiring managers and recruiters. One need only google the phrase “take the guesswork out of hiring” to behold a crowded field of vendors promising to transform hiring with the power of data. 

While it is clear that data analytics has an important role in modernizing and improving the hiring process, it is equally clear that not all data solutions are created equal. Many of the technology players in the HR space who claim to offer a kind of data-driven panacea are employing fairly rudimentary techniques that may, on their own, improve efficiency in one aspect of the hiring lifecycle or another but do little to actually address the real problems facing the labor market today like employee retention and turnover. And no data solution, no matter how advanced or effective, can replace the human element entirely. 

Using Data to “Augment Human Wisdom”

As Arena Analytics CEO and President Myra Norton recently commented in a conversation with McKnights Senior Living Content Editor Kim Bonvissuto, “I’m not an advocate, in the hiring context, of AI making a hiring decision. I think that’s dangerous. I think what data and technology can do is augment human wisdom and understanding. I advise any company to get to know your technology partner that you’re working with and make sure you understand what their ethical process is, how they develop their technology, and make sure it aligns with your mission and your goals.”

At the end of the day, even the biggest of big data solutions is only an additional tool in a hiring manager’s toolbox.  At Arena Analytics, our model analyzes an enormous amount of relevant data to reach objective, provable conclusions, providing valuable information that our customers simply can’t get any other way. These insights give employers a competitive advantage that other tools can’t provide–insight on which candidates are best suited to thrive and be retained backed by rock-solid data that has driven proven outcomes time and time again. We believe we’ve created a tool that can be incredibly valuable, even game-changing, in the right hands. But it still comes down to the person making the hiring decision to put that tool to work in the way that is best for their organization. 

Tom Huntington

Senior Director of Communications