Asia Responds: HR Big Data…or HR Big Flop?

July 24, 20149:32 am2043 views
Asia Responds: HR Big Data…or HR Big Flop?
Asia HR Big Data Survey Whitepaper Report

The buzz surrounding Big Data and Human Resources reached an overwhelming crescendo in 2013- to the extent that the prospect of yet another article on employee Big Data or workforce analytics became…wearying, to say the least. Even though Big Data is touted far and wide as representing a transformative and seismic shift for HR, startlingly few organisations have actually implemented a Big Data strategy to date. Let’s be honest, a lot of what we hear about Big Data isn’t exactly the day-to-day stuff of Human Resources- or certainly not in Asia-Pacific, as a recent survey on HR Big Data in Asia proves.
In fact, as the study reveals, the workforce Big Data movement is ostensibly US-focussed and has had a gentle outwards ripple effect across the global HR profession, with questionable impact on day-to-day HR practices in major Asian economic hubs such as Tokyo and Singapore. Beyond the media interest, there is scant evidence that companies in Asia – outside of early adopters such as Google – are applying Big Data knowledge to the workforce at all.


The Asia HR Big Data Report


The 1st All-Asia HR Big Data Survey takes the Big Data hype to the East in a bid to gain insights to surface common trends in how HR systems and processes work across APAC, how organizations really feel about the rise of HR Big Data and how they plan to use it in future business strategy.


HRBoss surveyed over 400 companies with over 1.5 million HR professionals across Asia and the results show that there is still a long way to go for Asian HR. The Asia-based Human Resources professional knows that they are wholly responsible for managing HR Big Data and that their organisation need a Big Data strategy for a sustainable future. However, they simply lack the tools to help them bring strategic value to the boardroom.


According to the survey, even simple HR tasks are not automated. Employee organisational charts have to be manually updated each time someone leaves or joins the company. 76% are unable to provide an on-demand map of their organisational structure to their CEO. Though Banking, Finance and Technology are ahead of the curve here, with 35% of org chart updates done automatically, all other industries rely on up to 95% of org chart updates to be done manually.


HR Reporting is Broken in Asia.


On top of this, HR professionals are stuck in excel hell, expending far too much time preparing reports, generating monthly, weekly or even daily reports for higher management. 88% spend more than 2 full days per month preparing reports while 22% of HR in APAC are spending over 6 days per month– that’s more than 1 entire work week.


The survey report also highlights a new trend amongst C-suite executives: the appetite for data-driven HR reporting is growing. Management is increasingly demanding in-depth and detailed employee data reports. Without the right tools, how is HR going to cope with this demand?


When it comes to accessing data, report end-users want to access the data on-the-fly, in a single dashboard.  Yet, 91% are operating without one. According to the report, 85 % of end-users want reports delivered via real-time dashboards or mobile….but only 9% currently receive HR reports this way. Instead, HR executives are stuck on spreadsheets, email, Powerpoint and paper.


The survey also revealed that the greatest hurdles for Big Data adoption in HR are the lack of in-house data analysis expertise and inadequate IT systems for data management. Lack of time, budget, and too much data to process were also cited as inhibitors.


Commenting on this, Divisional Director of the National Human Resources Division at Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Mr. Ow Seng Fong, stated that “ Big Data’ is a sexier word for business analytics or data, which have been around for quite a long time. It is true that HR professionals grapple with the need to churn out fast, accurate data to make fact-based recommendations, but it does not help that most enterprises deploy a myriad of applications that do not talk to one another… even generating simple queries from the more well-known HRIS systems can be such an onerous process”.


With all these barriers, it is understandable why 80% of respondents do not feel confident they have the right tools to offer strategic value to the boardroom. Commenting on the results of the survey, Low Zhongming, Talent Management Manager of SMRT Singapore attributes this to old technology and the expensive cost in implementing Big Data tools. He commented, “The right tools tend to be more costly, so Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) may not have the resources or financials to support this… Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) are generally moving towards securing the right tools, but are hindered by legacy systems.”


Asia-based HR know they need a Big Data strategy…but they do not have one in place yet.


As HR prepares to deliver insights needed for Talent acquisition and development in an organisation, one strong theme that emerged from the survey was that when it comes to workforce Big Data, the buck stops with HR. 71% of respondents think that HR should take ownership of Big Data for HR but when asked ‘‘Do you have a Big Data strategy in place for 2014?”, 98% of CHROs responded ‘No’. This demonstrates a huge discrepancy with their belief that HR Big Data will become a priority – 79% of the participants were confident that HR Big Data will become an important strategy in 2014 but the HR leaders at the top tell a completely different story.


The Asia HR Big Data Survey reveals that Big Data has reached the shores of Asia…but it has yet to be translated from theory into actionable strategy and business value-add. As decision-makers increasingly request more detailed and frequent reports to execute on faster and smarter decisions, HR realises that they need to provide real-time, visual reports. In a nutshell: HR in Asia knows they need a Big Data strategy but they don’t have one yet.


One last word…


Human Resources today faces the perfect storm of challenges, both internally and externally. As organisations look towards a turning of the cycle over the next few quarters, trying to fill key positions with the right Talent, HR in Asia must hop onto the analytics bandwagon or risk being left behind other functions. With the rise of Cloud computing, the market for Big Data solution and analytics tools is already making workforce analytics more accessible. Big Data tools will empower Asian HR to make the smartest decisions about employee management, hiring practices and reporting. The question for HR leaders in Asia now is whether they are bold enough to take the leap towards a data-driven HR department.


The effects of globalisation continues to impact businesses across the world, creating opportunities as well as challenges for Human Resources. The market for skilled workers is now global and HR departments are reformulating their strategies in order to recruit, retain and optimize Talent on an international scale. Indeed, the adage ‘the world is your oyster’ could not be more fitting as the war for Talent intensifies and steps up to the global stage. In order to survive this new era, HR needs to up its ante to overcome new challenges and should no longer be bounded to old systems and processes. When it comes to adopting a data-driven approach to HR it seems that Asia still has some way to go…but the appetite for all things Big Data at least indicates that we are on the right track.


You can download a full copy of the whitepaper release here.


Article Contributed by Guest Writer:

Annabella Poon is a Marketing Executive based in the HRBoss headquarters in

Singapore. Asia’s leading provider of data-driven software for the HR and staffing industry, HRBoss helps organisations unlock valuable insights with their workforce Big Data solution, EmployeeBoss. To find out more about EmployeeBoss, the award-winning employee reporting & analytics platform for the C-Suite, contact Bella at:

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