If knowledge is power, then the HR departments of Corporate America are some pretty powerful entities. After all, knowledge and tracking of those skills deemed most valuable to today’s employers will only lead to a more skilled and productive workforce in the future. Add numerous other pieces of information, like the most valued employee benefits or the traits of the most profitable managers, and HR departments will soon realize the power of their accumulated knowledge. In other words, those who collect and retain data are going to be able to use it in new and exciting ways.


In her blog for the Society for Human Resource Management, Megan Purdy writes that we’re currently “in the era of Big Data HR, with recruiting, hiring and performance evaluations increasingly driven by data.” Still, Purdy wonders how valuable that data is.


According to Bernard Marr, author of Big Data, pretty valuable. In fact, Marr suggests that data collected by HR departments could be even more important to companies than financial data “because the more data you build up on your employees and their interactions with each other and the company, the more you know about how your business is really working,” Purdy wrote.


In his most recent book, “Data Strategy,” Marr says the true benefit of data will come when we–and the algorithms we create–use them to predict what’s next. “Just as the heroes of science fiction movies used their computers for analysis predictions and conclusions on what to do next, in real life, we’re moving into an area where computers are going to enhance human knowledge in entirely new ways,” Marr wrote.


Constant learning


The value of data will depend on its context, which means that companies should be able potentially to analyze years of data, which will help shape recruitment efforts, retentions, productivity and more. “Data will help prevent companies from over-reacting when there are small blips in productivity or retention but it will also help identify when those blips are destined to become trends,” says Robert Brandmen, a former jobs analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The right data, if it’s understood and acted upon, is going to help companies continue to move forward.”


Talent strategist Meghan Biro believes that HR should create a workforce strategy based on data and analytics. “To really leverage human capital now, we need to turn to the data that is constantly forming, streaming, reforming,” she wrote onVisier.com. “Passive and active candidates, onboarding, training, engagement, retention, attrition, performance, recognition: it can all be predicted with Big Data.”