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Big data and HR analytics in the digital era

Pauli Dahlbom (School of Business and Economics, Jyväskylä University, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Noora Siikanen (School of Business and Economics, Jyväskylä University, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Pasi Sajasalo (School of Business and Economics, Jyväskylä University, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Marko Jarvenpää (School of Accounting and Finance, University of Vaasa, Vaasa, Finland)

Baltic Journal of Management

ISSN: 1746-5265

Article publication date: 7 January 2020

Issue publication date: 13 January 2020




The purpose of this paper is to focus on how the HR function takes advantage of human resource analytics (HRA), including big data (BD), and discuss factors hindering HRA and data utilization. Moreover, the authors discuss the implications of the HRA-induced role transformation of the human resource (HR) function.


This is an explorative case study based on qualitative interviews in nine leading Finnish companies.


The results indicate that both technical and human obstacles, operating with very basic HR processes and traditional information systems and poor data quality, hinder adoption of advanced HRA. This, combined with lacking skills in analytics and business understanding, inability to go beyond reporting, misconceptions related to BD and traditional compliance-oriented HR culture pose further challenges for the data analytics capacity and business partner role of the HR function. Senior executives expect no significant advancements of HRA, while HR professionals saw potential value in BD, although skepticism was not uncommon. The results point toward a need for increased cooperation with data analysts and HR professionals in provision and understanding the HR-related data for business-related decision making. Furthermore, cultural change and organizational redesign may be called for, in addition to overcoming technological obstacles related to BD, for it to have an impact on HR practices. HRA utilization and role transition of the HR function seem closely related and this transformation can be mutually reinforcing.


This study provides and theorizes explorative data on HRA within a group of some of the largest Finnish companies, pointing toward an immature state of the art in BD and HRA utilization and there being a relationship between HRA and the role transition of the HR function in organizations.



Dahlbom, P., Siikanen, N., Sajasalo, P. and Jarvenpää, M. (2020), "Big data and HR analytics in the digital era", Baltic Journal of Management, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 120-138.



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