Talent Analytics: A Crystal Ball For Your Workforce?

We’ve been listening to the buzz around Big Data and Talent Analytics for a couple of years now. It has been nearly three years to the day that I wrote about why Big Data is HR’s new BFF. It has a lot of potential, Cloud-sized trove of information that, with the right algorithms and filters – can be turned into actionable insight.

The existence of these new streams of verifiable information about potential hires adds a hefty dose of science to one facet of business that, surprisingly, has often felt like more like an art. Sure, the resume looks great and the interview was a standout. “Star player” one recruiter claims, “I can feel it in my gut.”

Think about it – sports have traditionally mixed stats with that sixth sense. Those winning World Cup teams? Hard numbers helped build those rosters: no one’s gotten to be a star midfielder or striker without awesome stats, one of the original forms of Talent Analytics, when you think about it. It’s time the World of Work catches catch up.

I’m not saying ditch the intangibles altogether. HR is all about humans— with so many different behaviors, skills, intelligence, and mindsets that you can’t simply quantify someone. But Talent Analytics can do a whole lot of the heavy lifting. You just have to know how to use it.

  • Talent analytics uses data in management decisions, be it in talent acquisition, retention, placement, promotion, compensation, or workforce and succession planning.
  • It has the capacity to be a powerful descriptive tool, looking at past performance and information to enable strategic change. Josh Bersin described the astonishing revelations a company had after performing a statistical analysis of sales productivity and turnover. The data showed that old indicators (such as GPA and education) were far less critical to performance and retention than factors like experience selling big-ticket items, for instance. When the data was implements into the recruiting process, the company grew by $4 M in the very next fiscal period.
  • It’s an incredible predictive tool, a trustworthy future-caster, HR’s own crystal ball. By analyzing the skills and attributes of high performers in the present, it enables organizations to build a template for future hires. As my neighbor here in Cambridge MA Greta Roberts notes, predictive talent analytics is much more useful, because it asks questions in order to change the outcome, not reflect on it. What will our attrition rate be this year? Who may leave the company? What can we do to reduce that turnover?
  • By its nature Talent Analytics is democratic: merit may well trump a fancy education, skills may supersede proximity, and remember those apparently intangible aspects, like social skills, flexibility, emotional intelligence, initiative, attitude,? They are now measurables. Just look at Google’s HR division devoted to people analytics, and massive, global sites like LinkedIn, a gold mine for HR.
  • Advanced software algorithms can identify talent and match it to an organization’s needs, pinpointing team players based on core traits and personality matching, making it an effective method for taking care of costly and time-consuming preliminary screening.
  • It’s mobile.Everything’s mobile. Your talent acquisition strategies had better be, too. New mobile apps make talent searches a matter of anytime and anywhere, including red-flag identifiers, an efficient way to handle the increasingly global and social nature of hires.
  • It’s growing.The market for corporate talent management software grew by 17% in 2013, and is now over $5 billion in size. Gartner predicts that the market for BigData and analytics will generate $3.7 Trillion in products and services and generate 4.4 million new jobs by 2015.

That buzz? We can still hear it, loud and strong. Maybe it’s time to sing along.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

photo credit: Crystal Reflection via photopin (license)

Reinventing Talent Management

It’s time for companies to enhance their internal talent management programs with a healthy dose of mobility insight! Mobility – the practice of managing domestic or global assignments so that a company has the right talent in place, where and when the placement will be most effective – is growing in importance to fulfill business strategy. Those companies who couple mobility expertise with human resource management methodologies and systems are cutting a new global workforce path for the long term.

Here’s today’s talent scenario: Increased global opportunity and expansion are straining an already tight workforce. Companies doing business around the world struggle with skills gaps and regional talent shortages. Some professions, like those under the STEM (sciences, technology, engineering and math) banner, are experiencing an alarming scarcity of candidates. These issues are some of the most pressing for CEOs concerned with solidifying and growing their global footprint, but they’re not the only challenges. There’s also a need for advanced talent analytics – using statistical analytics to actively identify and solve business issues, centralize staff and integrate data – and predictive analytics, where they can project models and engage in business and workforce scenario planning. Country to country, demographics tell us that the talent shortage will continue for years to come, but we are learning more about how companies can increase their appeal and source talent more effectively.

One of the change agents in HR and mobility innovation is increasingly sophisticated technology. The addition of automation in job search marketing, talent sourcing, communications and outreach is one of the fundamental ways to create engagement and inform potential employees about one’s global brand. Mobile apps are surfacing as a primary interface for many HR-related systems; analytics that come from effective use of big data shed light on employee effectiveness, retention and recruiting; and leadership and performance assessment tools aid in succession planning.

There is powerful and positive change in the making – global employers have learned lessons about recruiting and retention at a dizzying rate in recent years. But there still is a significant disconnect that my industry hopes to influence through our talent management work. Bersin by Deloitte notes that though 75 percent of companies say they’ll increase their mobile workforce, only two percent think they have an exceptional mobility function. Over the last 30 years, HR has moved from operating as a personnel department to more strategic HR, and now is navigating waters that include integrated talent management, steering toward business-integrated HR. The majority of companies, says Bersin, are still fixed in an “operational reporting” phase (where they are more reactive, and their focus is on such issues as data, compliance, consistency, and timeliness) or an “advanced reporting” phase (where they are a bit more proactive and incorporate more decision-making, trend and benchmarking analysis. The goal? To get companies to these top levels, which not quite 30% of employers have reached: “managed talent relationships” (where companies have an analytics-rich, clear talent strategy) or an “inclusive talent system” (where we find fully developed and integrated talent activities aligned to desired strategic outcomes).

Fortunately, the world’s talent pool has never been more mobile, and we see that trend continuing. Most young professionals believe they will have global assignments throughout their careers – that’s an essential characteristic of this group, because they are the next wave of leaders. It’s important, in this environment, for companies to be able to segment talent and identify their top employees; to learn who their emerging leaders are, and where they have employees with the highest potential or exceptional performance track records.  Mobility professionals can help companies position for these needs by aligning with their human resources counterparts in the collective goal to empower HR with mobility knowledge.

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