Canadian HR Reporter

June 13, 2016

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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CANADIAN HR REPORTER June 13, 2016 NEWS 3 employees are feeling about an announcement such as a divesti- ture or a restructuring. Big data is an important tool for HR professionals, but there is still a lack of understanding, said Smit. "It's the issue of the differ- ence between data science and analytics." Data science is the actual nitty gritty of working with numbers while analytics derive insight or intelligence from that data. "In a human resources applica- tion, for instance, the data is look- ing at issues like how many em- ployees take all of their vacation days or how many people get sick and how many times each year," said Smit. "It's in the application that you derive some sort of con- clusion or insight from that data." The growing concern about data scientist shortages refers to data science more so than analyt- ics, he said. "If you run a search on data sci- entists, you'll hear there's a short- age. ese are the people who ac- tually have the technical skills to pull data sets out and create data lakes," said Smit. "Before you throw your data in the lake, you want to normalize it and cleanse it so it makes sense. So you really need a data scientist to do the extract, transform and load — or what we call the ETL." While the shortage must be ad- dressed by increasing awareness of and interest in STEM disci- plines — science, technology, en- gineering and mathematics — the issue of analytics can be addressed within an organization, he said. "Once you have your data, then you want to derive meaning. You need to manage it, you need to develop algorithms to address particular questions," said Smit. "You cannot derive data without an understanding of the business problem. We have to have people who understand our business and our procedures, how we do things and the dynamics of the business in order to be able to formulate the issue that needs to be addressed or needs to be investigated." By training existing employ- ees in analytics, organizations can guarantee their data will be handled by someone with a deep understanding of the company's specific needs and goals, he said. e importance of building a data science team within an or- ganization cannot be underesti- mated, said Abidin Akkok, proj- ect director for Canada's Big Data Consortium in Toronto. "Considering that data science is a multi-disciplinary domain, most of the time, it may not be possible to have one person who will be the jack-of-all-trades," said Akkok. "Therefore, companies need to build data science teams consisting of employees with ex- pertise in different fields such as math, computer science, statis- tics, operations research, machine learning and domain expertise. Companies may employ a variety of strategies depending on the size and urgency of the problem." A focus on citizen data scien- tists will also alleviate the growing skills shortage, said Akkok. "is requires collaboration be- tween government, industry and academia. Labour market clar- ity needs to be improved by es- tablishing common professional definitions and career pathways. Employer demands need to be better met by building more of the right types of talent, and the existing talent needs to be lever- aged by sourcing and growing talent internally rather than only recruiting new talent." While the world of big data can be intimidating, the tools associ- ated with data science and ana- lytics, specifically, are becoming more user-friendly, said Smit. "e tools with which we gath- er the data and examine the data have become better and more sophisticated and simpler," he said. "Once the data is formatted and it gets thrown into a reposi- tory on a regular basis, somebody like a marketing analyst could sit down with a tool and visualize the data… Interpreting the data and looking for patterns in the data has become more sophisticated and actually requires less special- ization. Less smarts are required." Organizations should focus on training employees to be data-lit- erate even if they aren't planning on taking advantage of everything big data has to offer, said Smit. "People want more flexibility in terms of when and where they work, so more people are work- ing remotely and doing all sorts of things," he said. "If you've got people scattered across multiple locations, they're never going to see each other but they have to work together. at's all technol- ogy-dependent. If you're in a work environment, you need to under- stand what the capabilities are." Another reason many employ- ers are focusing on training em- ployees to be citizen data scien- tists is to increase security. "Everybody is worried about breaches and privacy and all sorts of issues around that," said Smit. Companies that hire a consult- ing firm or data specialization firm to handle data science are increasingly turning to employees to analyze that data rather than let information out of the in-house data centre, into the hands of an outside party. Additionally, more employees are expressing a desire to work with big data, he said. "On a much broader basis, peo- ple are feeling more comfortable with all the big data that is around. e edge of 'Big Brother' has come off. ere's corporate governance, information governance and ac- cess control. So there's less con- cern about it," said Smit. "e second piece is that there's a stronger appreciation for the value that can be extracted from the data. Big data is actually al- lowing us to develop a path with which we can help organizations get better. If you can't measure it you can't manage it, and you cer- tainly can't get better at it if you don't know where you start." 'Better security with in-house analytics' BIG DATA < pg. 1

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