​Data or Die

by HCA06 Feb 2014
Research suggests the talent acquisition function has the highest business impact of any of the HR functions. David Bernstein outlines how Big Data can assist and why HR can’t be strategic without it

A recent report by ManpowerGroup and Right Management states: “In the Human Age, the shift in strategic focus from capital to talent is putting business performance results at the door of HR leaders. Success will be measured by their ability to work with the business leadership to… leverage talent as a competitive advantage.”

Sound advice, to be sure, but the perception of HR’s strategic prowess leaves much to be desired. HR is accused of not being strategic, and that accusation is all too often based on reality. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2012 CEO Study stated 79% of HR leaders report to the CEO; however, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2012 CEO Perspectives Study stated only 38% of CEOs view HR leaders as key in the company’s strategic planning.

In order to offer strategic insights to their organisations, HR leaders must bring what every other business function brings: recommendations and consultation based on solid data. The advent of Big Data offers HR unprecedented opportunities to demonstrate their value to the bottom line.

A strategy is a carefully designed plan with a specific end in mind. With a clear understanding of overall company goals, HR gathers the various types of internal and external data needed to detect patterns and predict future outcomes. HR can then create people strategies based on that analysis, with the specific end of meeting business goals as they pertain to talent.

If HR is unable or unwilling to incorporate evidence-based forecasting into its processes, it will become even less relevant to its company’s goals. A decision point has arrived for HR leaders, wherein they need to assess the value and need of data in their organisation (see graphic) and decide whether or not data matters. No one, if given the opportunity to increase their likelihood of making accurate decisions, would say, ‘No thanks’. But that’s exactly what HR professionals are doing if they reject the ‘must-have’ nature of data. If Big Data-generated insights aren’t important, valuable or needed, then this article is a waste of time and there’s no point in reading any further.

If, however, such insights are valuable and needed, consider this. The Boston  Consulting Group recently concluded the talent acquisition function has the highest business impact of any of the HR functions on the success of running a business. If HR hopes to retain this vital function, it needs to acquire the Big Data-derived predictive analytics necessary to become more strategic.

Here’s an example of how Big Data can inform one aspect of talent strategy. After my firm reviewed the talent acquisition objectives of a large fi nancial institution, it became clear they did not understand how their recruitment marketing spend was performing. Over the years, the number of job boards they were using had ballooned to 48, costing them roughly $175,000 per year – all in an effort to hire an average of 350 people per year in just that one segment of their business.

The first objective was to analyse their candidate activity across those 48 boards. We found, to everyone’s surprise, 45 of their sites showed no response within a reasonable time frame. The analysis revealed only three of their current boards were producing any reasonable candidate response rates. With our Big Data analysis capability, we were then able to identify four other boards they should use and recommended they drop the 45 that were not performing. Finally, based on our analysis of the words and phrases candidates were searching on, we provided guidance on how to improve their job posting titles and descriptions.

Ultimately, we helped our customer boost their candidate traffic by 175%. Our customer also reported an increase in the quality of candidates, as evidenced by an increase in the number of candidates brought in for interviews. The data analysis from this example was both descriptive and predictive: here’s what is going on now, and here are ways to likely improve what’s going on. Big Data analysis can help to bridge the gap between ‘I think’ and ‘I know’, between ‘This is how we’ve always done it’ and ‘This is how we should be doing it’ – by enabling accurate forecasting and real-time analysis and adjustments within the talent acquisition process.

HR leaders can follow these practical action steps for building a foresighted, Big Data-informed talent acquisition strategy that aligns with business objectives:
  • start with your internal data in your core ATS and HR systems to determine turnover rates, cost per hire and other key metrics yy look at the data from the job boards you use to determine which ones are producing the candidates you need – and how long it’s historically taken to get them
  • subscribe to data services – ie web traffic data, Google AdWords, vendor and government labour data, etc – to increase your ability to forecast talent needs
  • measure your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn traffic – ie number of Likes, Follows, Re-Tweets, etc – and determine if there is a correlation with your employer brand and recruitment marketing efforts.
  • work with vendors or in-house IT and data specialists to analyse the data to detect patterns of behavior that will inform the how, why, when and where of your talent acquisition strategy 

Consider how these insights can enable you to be proactive. Big Data enables you to see into your company’s future, as well as that of the broader market, and be strategic in your talent acquisition efforts. It also enables you to measure whether you are getting the expected and desired results from those efforts.

Bringing to your executives data that reveals how long it will take to fill certain positions and the budgets needed to build the right sources, for instance, makes your strategic value obvious. Faster time-to-insight means faster time-to-hire, which means your organisation has the competitive advantage of having the talent it needs in place at the right time.

Being able to fulfill business goals and take advantage of market opportunities has a long-term effect on any organisation’s bottom line. That’s the kind of strategic partnership that can boost the C-suite’s confidence in HR.

David BernsteinDavid Bernstein is VP of Big Data for HR at eQuest. For further information visit equest.com