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Emphasis on data quality can improve corporate HR initiatives

Most of the legwork that companies have put into "big data" has gone toward external, consumer-facing initiatives. They're looking to improve their marketing strategies, which will enable them to reach out to new customers and retain old ones. That's not the only use for data-driven technologies, though. Companies are beginning to discover a new use for big data - they can use it in human resources.

Analytics can play a major role in helping companies improve their workforces. Every business invests a great deal of time and money into its talent - recruiting it, developing it, retaining it. By gathering more information about their past, present and future employees, businesses can perform analyses that will help them improve the way they manage human capital.

Here's a rundown of a few ways that big data can improve HR.

Better recruiting
According to The Washington Post, LinkedIn recently began work on a project that would gather information on the entire global workforce, cataloging everyone's skills and every company's workforce needs around the world.

"Our ultimate dream is to develop the world's first economic graph," LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said.

Companies could then use this information to fine-tune their searches for qualified employees, finding the best candidates quickly and efficiently. More data will lead to more intelligent recruiting decisions.

Smarter career development
LinkedIn also has a vision for how data analysis could change career development for existing employees. Parker Barrile, senior director of product for the site's talent solutions division, told the Post that companies can use data to monitor workers' career arcs and examine their progress.

"Are they being promoted very quickly? In that case, maybe we should recommend jobs that are a step up for them," Barrile said. "Or have they been stable in their career for the past several years? In that case, maybe we should present simply new opportunities at the same level."

Identifying needs and skills gaps
In some cases, companies have plenty of talented workers already, but they're being used in the wrong roles. Data analysis can show companies areas where they're devoting too much or too little talent. By examining the productivity of each department, executives can find skills gaps where more labor is needed.

In all of these endeavors, data quality is essential. Companies have great potential to improve their workforces using analytics, but they will only be successful if they have accurate, up-to-date information about all employees, past and present.