These days, nearly all of our daily actions both at work and in our personal lives are done using some form of technology and internet: online shopping, sending work emails, connecting with friends on social media, watching television or movies, etc. Each time we utilize the web to accomplish any of these daily tasks, data is collected that helps these applications understand our particular tastes and preferences, allowing them to suggest things to us and predict what future choices we will make online.

Data mining to obtain big data, this process of extracting unique patterns in data from users and consumers, is quickly becoming the standard by which businesses operate. Large organizations such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Google use big data frequently, but even small local businesses are beginning to implement some form of data mining and/or collection-based software. Businesses are able to accurately depict products and services that customers would find useful rather than using a general spam-like approach to customer interaction.

Though big data is clearly a great tool for the retail and sales industry, it is also proving to be a valuable asset for the learning and development field—particularly with corporate training companies. Big data has been shown to be very beneficial for employee training. Whether a company is seeking to improve its training for new hires or for current employees, big data can have a significant effect on the whole process. Employers can use big data to track how well the employees have understood the courses and which information is being retained and applied, which then allows employers to see what parts of the training need to be improved. By doing this and moving away from the traditional, non-customized style of employee training, companies will see a huge improvement in their employees’ performances. As Tim Martin of Rustici Software explained, “Companies are starting to recognize how employees actually learn and allowing them to do it the way they wish to, rather than forcing them into a draconian system.”

Big data can also help employers effectively motivate and inspire their employees. says, “By tracking, analyzing and sharing employee performance-related data, employers and HR not only gain more insight on employees, but boost individual motivation and overall engagement.” When companies have a good handle on their employees and really understand them as people, they can thus find ways to give them more validation and job satisfaction. Happy, validated, satisfied employees produce better work, so using big data to help you understand your employees and the way they tick will really benefit your employees and your company as a whole.

Most people are familiar with the notion that big data is a great way for companies to target consumers and advertise based on a user’s shopping and viewing history, but big data has grown into an important learning and development tool for businesses looking to improve the performance of their employees. As big data helps to uncover employees’ potential and abilities, employers are able to carefully adapt not only their training methods but also their employee engagement levels and incentives, optimizing both the company’s overall performance as well as employee morale.