Posted by Jonathan Crossfield on 22 January 2014
Recruitment firms and human resources professionals love their statistics. Most can recite figures for how much it costs the business to hire a new employee, average time in role, attrition rate and so on. But beyond these compelling numbers, human resources has been slower to adopt a more analytical approach to big data than other industries.
If you know it costs your business $X every time an employee needs to be replaced, what other useful data is available that can help you reduce that number? If the attrition rate is a known quantity, what can be gleaned from the data to help you to lower that KPI and improve staff retention?
The truth is out there
There has never been more data available on employment trends and human resources than we have available today. The problem is that most HR personnel are not mathematicians. They’re more concerned with people management and legal accountability.
So maybe the time is ripe for data analysts to become key players in recruitment. Data analysts don’t only know what questions to ask of the data, they also know how to dig the answers out of the plethora of otherwise meaningless numbers captured by any human resources or recruitment platform.
The data analyst looks for the patterns in seemingly unconnected collections of numbers. And these patterns can reveal trends, opportunities and even risks that may otherwise have remained undiscovered. This ability to extract more meaningful insights and information is at the heart of big data.
Know the limitations
What big data can’t provide with any certainty is a guarantee that your future hires will be better than previously. It is less likely to help you in a specific recruitment situation. Just as psychometric testing isn’t enough by itself to prove a person’s suitability for a role, data is similarly restrictive.
Data can only predict the future by looking to the past. And while that can be a powerful tool, it is by no means infallible, particularly when the world keeps changing. However, big data can help with identifying aspects and characteristics that could increase the overall effectiveness and success rate of the recruitment process across an entire firm.
Identify the trends that contribute to employee attrition rates, for example, and you may be able to reduce that attrition number over time by focusing on different priorities or introducing certain new recruitment criteria.
Gaining the edge
Competition is so fierce these days that even the tiniest advantage can be enough to create a positive impact on the business. If big data can improve recruitment performance by as little as 3 per cent, over time this can incrementally build a greater lead against the competition.
So you’re not necessarily looking for sweeping changes and massive results overnight. Big data can be a long game, gradually changing how your business performs until the advantages become more pronounced and significantly more valuable.
Of course, the reverse is also true. Big data is here to stay. If you delay, it could be your competitors that achieve that slight advantage and you could see yourself falling further and further behind, always wondering what they know that you don’t.
So maybe 2014 really is the time to take big data seriously. Start the new year by determining what pieces of information could be really valuable to you in achieving next year’s KPIs. Start looking for how different pieces of data are related. Look for patterns and trends that could reveal previously untapped opportunities for improvement.
The numbers just might show you the way.