When an audience hears the term big data they think about optimizing retail website suggestions to best convert a customer, or using historical weather trends to determine Sunday’s chance of rain. They often do not think of data about themselves used by their HR Department or Manager driven evaluation, but they should.
People analytics at work is the application of big data techniques against all the things that employees do on a given day and even what they have done prior to joining their firm. All this data is analyzed and trends are found, and more importantly traits leading to success and failure emerge which can drive business decisions.
The most popular example of people analytics is from Billy Beane who’s story was detailed in the movie Moneyball where he used the stats of players to turn around the Oakland A’s from a losing franchise to a winning one without breaking the bank with player contracts. Employers want to do the same but it can feel creepy. Don Peck from The Atlantic captured this best in a recent article “The application of predictive analytics to people’s careers—an emerging field sometimes called “people analytics”—is enormously challenging, not to mention ethically fraught. And it can’t help but feel a little creepy. It requires the creation of a vastly larger box score of human performance than one would ever encounter in the sports pages, or that has ever been dreamed up before.”
Here are a few decisions where people analytics are starting to guide decision makers:
Hiring – Jen Hubley Luckwaldt blogged  about A startup company called Knack that develops simple games called Dungeon Scrawl and Wasabi Waiter that are designed to collect hundreds of data points as a potential hire plays them. This helps determine creativity, judgment, and their ability to rebound after mistakes which ultimately lead to an assessment on fit and capability for success.
Mentoring employees – Theodore Kinni –  recently wrote about the book the Decoded Company where many of the authors work at the same digital marketing agency called Klick. At Klick they created a system called Genome which analyzes all the data they collect on their employees and it gives them warnings on when they need to intervene in someone’s career or in a project before it is too late.
Determining future needs – Michael Rafter from Workforce.com  recently detailed how the Black Hills power company now uses big data to plan their future workforce needs and more importantly they can predict skill gaps before they materialize.
These are just a few example applications of people analytics and if you are not seeing these yet where you work they may just be a few success stories away or your next task for a consultant agency may be to implement these at your work place as this is a buzz worthy topic as demonstrated by this video from Deloitte.