Ithaca, NY, August 26, 2015Hospitality firms have more information than ever about their employees. But the rush of “big data” has opened both new opportunities and great challenges for human resources departments, as discussed in the inaugural industry roundtable on big human resources data in the hospitality industry. Sponsored by the Cornell Institute for Hospitality Labor and Employment Relations (CIHLER), the roundtable brought together participants who represent the world’s top hospitality firms. They were concerned with both the quality and comprehensiveness of the data, as well as how to apply those data.

Key points in the discussion are available in “Hospitality HR and Big Data: Highlights from the 2015 Roundtable,” a report by roundtable chair J. Bruce Tracey. The report was produced by CIHLER in conjunction with the Center for Hospitality Research and is available for download at no charge.

“A couple of the dangers in all this data are that it’s hard to determine if it’s all accurate,” said Tracey, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. “But even when we know it’s right, there’s a strong possibility of drawing the wrong conclusions, simply because there’s so much data. For example, it’s possible to draw statistically valid conclusions from analytical procedures, but then you have to make sure that those conclusions make business sense.”

Roundtable participants look ahead to further integration of big HR data with other types of big data, such as that from customer and operational performance sources. At the same time, they noted the potential ethical concerns associated with the ability to view and potentially abuse huge volumes of sensitive information. Going forward the industry will need more people who are able to use and interpret this mountain of HR data.