The Talent Acquisition Imperative: How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now


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In every corner of the marketplace, Big Data is the hottest topic. Why? Because it’s the key to impacting business results—and isn’t that what your success is all about?

For HR, Big Data presents an ideal opportunity to create better business results through more proactive Talent Acquisition. Talent is the fuel that powers the business, and organizations that successfully place the right people in the right place (job) at the right time will enjoy better productivity and outcomes. This white paper discusses how Big Data analysis empowers the critical talent acquisition process by enabling faster, evidence-based decisions that contribute to a company’s productivity and profitability.

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The Talent Acquisition Imperative: How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now

  1. 1. The Talent Acquisition Imperative—How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now
  2. 2. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 1EXECUTIVE SUMMARYIn every corner of the marketplace, Big Data is the hottesttopic. Why? Because it’s the key to impacting businessresults—and isn’t that what your success is all about?Research shows that effectively leveraging Big Datacan dramatically help organizations improve theirstrategic decision-making and achieve business goalsfaster, thereby increasing competitive advantage and,ultimately, profitability.For HR, Big Data presents an ideal opportunity to createbetter business results through more proactive TalentAcquisition. Talent is the fuel that powers the business,and organizations that successfully place the right peoplein the right place (job) at the right time will enjoy betterproductivity and outcomes.Big Data delivers valuable analytics and foresight tohelp HR more efficiently and cost-effectively recruitthe talent needed to drive their businesses forward.Specifically, HR can precisely target sources that havethe greatest likelihood of increasing candidate flow forspecific positions, building stronger talent pipelines andaccelerating time-to-fill. That precision targeting enablessmarter marketing spend as well.Yet the idea of Big Data is still daunting for manycompanies, and HR continues to struggle with where andhow to start. HR has traditionally not been allocated theresources necessary to become an early adopter of newtechnologies, forcing the function into “wait and see”mode. But every day spent waiting is another day yourorganization falls behind its competitors, another candidatelost, another goal delayed. Fortunately, there are ways toharness the power of Big Data without breaking the bank.This paper discusses the importance of proactive andstrategic Talent Acquisition, the real benefits of Big Datafor HR and a four-step plan to start your Big Data strategynow—in the spirit of immediately improving business results.We encourage you to sharethis valuable informationwith your corporate peersto help accelerate BigData success within yourorganization.
  3. 3. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 2Talent Does—And Always Will—Matter“Today, many companies are reportingthat their number one constraint ongrowth is the inability to hire workerswith the necessary skills.”This statement by former U.S. President Bill Clintonis unique not only because of the source, buteven more so because it came amidst Clinton’stwo-term presidency—in the late 1990s. At thattime, the thriving economy and technology boommade it difficult for many companies’ TalentAcquisition efforts to keep pace with businessgrowth and demand.Fast-forward to 2013, and the statement still ringstrue. Though economic conditions have changed,balancing talent supply and demand continuesto be a challenge for many companies and theirhuman resources (HR) organizations.Business experts agree that, for a company toachieve its strategic objectives and growthgoals, it must continuously have the right talentin the right place at the right time. Or, as authorJim Collins explains in his book Good to Great,companies must “get the right people on the bus,and in the right seats.”The timely deployment of skilled talent is necessaryto avoid missing marketing opportunities, delayingbusiness results and otherwise falling behind thecompetition. In other words, a lack of key talentand related staff constraints puts a company ata distinct disadvantage.“Clearly,organizations thatuse talent as adifferentiator areseeking to ensurethat they’re usingexternal datapoints to validatethe true impact oftheir talent efforts.”Source: Analytics into Action:Workforce Planning for Talent Success,Aberdeen Group, March 2012Talent fuels the innovation and successof a company, and talent constraintsare the main reason that businessesdon’t meet their strategic objectives.The Boston Consulting Group recentlyconcluded that the Talent Acquisitionfunction has the highest businessimpact of any of the HR functions onthe success of running a business.
  4. 4. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 3Big Data Increases theValue of the TalentAcquisition FunctionHR has been working hard to create and addvalue to organizations by moving from a focuson the transactional to the strategic. A significantopportunity has unfolded for HR, driven by theemergence of Big Data—the volumes of datacollected electronically that can help companiesmake more strategic and evidence-baseddecisions to move their businesses forward. Butonly if they take advantage of this opportunityin a timely manner.Simply put, Big Data provides the insight HRneeds to predict outcomes and take actionthat improves the likelihood of success. Byunderstanding what sources yield the highest-quality job candidates, for example, you’ll makejob marketing decisions that maximize yourrecruiting return on investment (ROI). But evenmore importantly, you’ll build a more talentedworkforce to drive better business results in boththe short and long term. It’s not unlike “knowingwhere to fish” to achieve the best catch possible.Big Data is the new frontier for innovation,competition and productivity—across all industriesand functions. HR cannot afford to be a lateadopter. By leveraging Big Data, HR can transformits image from a “reactive” recruiting function,responding to the “just-in-time” talent needs ofthe business to a “proactive” business partnerthat has the foresight to make better and fasterTalent Acquisition-related decisions. As Dr. JacFitz-enz, the “father of HR metrics and analysis,”recently said, “Without talent analytics, talentmanagement won’t be part of any significantbusiness discussions.” The two go hand-in-handand make the sum much greater than its parts.
  5. 5. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 4This unprecedented opportunity ties TalentAcquisition to the larger Workforce Planning modelthat helps companies strategically balance talentsupply and demand against desired businessoutcomes. Because business cycles are movingfaster than ever before, HR organizations thatdon’t leverage Big Data analytics and insightto become more proactive will not only findthemselves frenetically scrambling to fill positions,but will also risk seeing their company fall behindthe competition.At the end of the day, Workforce Planning isreally about understanding your business needs,assessing your current talent and identifyingyour company’s gaps so that you can help itswiftly “buy, build or borrow” required skills andcapabilities. Leveraging Big Data is the keyenabler for driving Talent Acquisition in the mostefficient, cost-effective and timely manner.PricewaterhouseCoopers’ most recent CEOstudy revealed that 79% of CEOs have a CHROor equivalent as one of their direct reports. Theintent is to integrate HR with business planning atthe highest levels within the company. This is whatHR has wanted for decades, and it is clear that HRhas earned a position in the C-suite.Report to the CEOAre Viewed as Keyin the Company’sStrategic Planning*Source - Pwc’s 2012 CEO Study**Economist Intelligence Unit - 2012 CEO Perspectives Study
  6. 6. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 5As we all know, the goal of any team sport is towin. Professional sports takes this concept onestep further since winning at the game also meansgreater revenue and profitability. When youthink of professional sports as a business, then itbecomes immediately clear why the managementof those teams is always looking to find ways togain competitive advantage. This is why it is notsurprising that Big Data analytics are finding theirway into the sporting arenas around the globe.The Golden State Warriors of the NationalBasketball Association are pioneering the useof data analysis to improve the performance oftheir talent. Through statistical analysis, the teamwas able to uncover a blind spot where theydid not know they were underperforming. Theydiscovered the pattern where opposing playerswere scoring against their star Center 53% of thetime when he was guarding them within five feetof the basket. With this newfound insight, thecoaches were able to develop a strategy anda training plan that focused on addressing thisgap and ultimately improved the performanceof the overall team. The parallels between sportsand work teams are readily apparent. Regularlyexamining data for patterns, measuring for areasof underperformance, and implementing astrategy to mitigate any issues is critical to anybusiness’ financial success.The Case for Big Data in HRIt’s not surprising that companies that leverage data and analytics typically financially outperformtheir peers, as they continually seek ways to improve specific business results. Businesses that goone step further and incorporate Big Data insights into their analysis will continue this competitiveadvantage in their markets. This is what Thomas Davenport refers to as “Analytics 3.0.” The advantagesBig Data analysis brings apply to any industry and business function. Studying examples of how BigData is already creating competitive advantage can give HR professionals ideas and insights on howthis new technology can be applied to their profession.HR can learn fromother industrieson how they areleveraging dataanalysis to improveperformance.
  7. 7. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 6The retail industry is quickly becoming anothershining example for the business world on how BigData insights can be leveraged to drive revenueand profitability. A recent example of severalelectronics store chains in Canada highlights thepoint. These stores are using the real-time analyticsof their sales to make decisions as they stock theirshelves. They noticed that in all of their stores, apurchasing shift had taken place; several specificupscale electronics items that started at about$650 were suddenly selling significantly more thanthe lower-priced models, which were in the $150price range. Based on this insight, they startedfilling the shelves with more of the higher-pricedmerchandise and greatly reduced the number oflower-priced models. Sales in the categories thatthey made those changes in quickly surged 40%.A 40% improvement in performance isincredible. Thanks to the real-time data, theywere immediately able to zero in on the shift inpurchasing behaviors and make changes thatallowed them to immediately capitalize on it.There was no guessing involved.These are just a few of the examples that canprovide the framework for HR on how to grapplewith applying Big Data analytics to their businessactivities. This new capability not only provides HRwith further capability to improve its operationalefficiency, but even more importantly, starts togive the profession a means to draw a connectionbetween their activity and the two most importantmetrics in business: Revenue and Profitability.For example, given the acknowledged criticalvalue of talent acquisition to the bottom line ofthe company, HR would zero in on the sourcingstrategies that have the greatest success in findingthe highest-skilled candidates, in the least amountof time, for least amount of effort and spend.Big Data givesbusinesses the abilityto intervene andadjust course—in real-time—tomitigate risk andincrease results.
  8. 8. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 7A Case in Point: EffectiveJob PostingDespite some pundits’ claims that job boards aredead, they continue to be one of the best toolsfor sourcing the talent you need—and a greatplace to launch your Big Data for HR journey. Jobboards are evolving to provide a gold mine ofinformation for employers and HR departments,thus representing a viable first step into the worldof Big Data.Big Data can show employers precisely whichsources have the greatest likelihood for generatingthe flow of the specific types of candidates theyneed. The reality is that employers cannot attemptto point their resources—time, money, people,etc.—at every potential sourcing opportunity.Nor can they afford to waste valuable time andmoney sourcing from channels that have a lowpotential of finding them qualified candidates.Big Data creates an opportunity for TalentAcquisition and sourcing professionals to glean keyinsights from the analysis of job board, candidateand employer data. Big Data analysis also enablesthe employer to measure the effectiveness of theirrecruitment campaigns in real time and makenecessary adjustments—sooner rather than later—to improve performance.It is critical that employers and recruitersleverage all available data and information tomake better decisions about how recruitmentresources are spent. Big Data can likewise helpuncover valuable trends and patterns on “clickdecisions”—that is, why or why not a candidatetakes the critical step to apply for your postedjob—so that you can adjust your course of actionand calibrate your processes accordingly.If you’re not doing this, your competitors are—andyou’ll have no way of knowing how many goodcandidates you’ve missed out on.The Skinny on Job Boards• CareerBuilder’s 2012 CandidateBehavior Study reports that 74% ofworkers are actively searching foror are open to a new opportunity—and over two-thirds of those workersare using job boards to find thatopportunity.• Furthermore, CareerXroads’ newreport, “2012 Sources of Hire: Channelsthat Influence,” reveals that job boardsrank just below referrals as the largestsource of external hires.
  9. 9. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 8So Now What? How to Kick-Start Your Big Data StrategyLet’s face it: The concept of “Big Data” is daunting for a lot of companies. Not only do HRleaders have their plates full with other strategic initiatives, but many lack the confidence in theirorganization’s ability to execute a “Big Data” initiative. That’s not unfounded, as the supply ofskilled data analysts—internally and externally—is in markedly limited supply.If you are one of those HR organizations striving towards proactive Talent Acquisition – versusoperating in a dated, reactive mode – there are four key steps you can take now to kick-start aBig Data strategy in a manageable fashion: • Consider Talent Acquisition in the overall context of the business—Align your Talent Acquisition efforts with your company’s strategy and objectives. Conduct a talent needs assessment to better understand your workforce and gaps against today’s business requirements. And if you’re anticipating growth or entry into new markets, look ahead to the talent needed to succeed. • Develop a “data acquisition” plan—Understand the type of data you need to support your strategic decision-making. When it comes to Talent Acquisition, this should include metrics such as time to fill, cost per hire, sources of hire, attrition rates and performance scores. You can also review your weblogs and external sources of data for key information and benchmarks to support your strategy. • Find your data experts, or “scientists”—“A fool with a tool is still a fool,” says software architect Grady Booch. Though Big Data is a great tool, it takes knowledgeable people to make the essential connections. Data analysis takes a specific skillset. If you don’t have or can’t develop such expertise internally, you’ll need to look externally. Having experts who can analyze enormous datasets and create actionable insights is critical if you’re to move forward with Big Data. • Partner with business leadership—Your chance of Big Data success is much greater with support throughout the business. Aligning with other business leaders not only helps gain buy-in at the highest levels, it also provides opportunities to demonstrate success. For example, helping the vice president of Product Development efficiently and cost- effectively source a new development team is a great testimonial as you execute your strategy companywide.
  10. 10. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 9Finding the MostCost-Effective,Easy-to-ImplementSolutionThe aforementioned steps provide only high-levelguidance on getting started with a Big Data plan.If you’re one of the many HR organizations whoseanxiety level is heightened by the perceivedcomplexity of employing a Big Data strategy—andperhaps at a standstill on the idea—you don’thave to go at it alone.Companies that are looking to immediately gainthat competitive advantage in the area of TalentAcquisition should seek to engage with a low-risk, cost-effective outsourcing solution. Doing soenables HR departments to quickly and easily plugin the power of Big Data without having to take onthe risk and effort of creating an internal Big Datacapability—while still delivering all the value ofsuch effort.The challenge for HR is that the competenciespreviously honed are not what will fuel HR’s nextevolutionary growth. It takes an entirely new setof skills to grow beyond HR’s traditional functionalrole—often that of a “just-in-time” recruiter—andbecome a more analytic, strategic partner to thebusiness. But until you develop or acquire suchexpertise, it might be wise to tap into a reputablethird-party consultant.The Greatest ChallengeA recent survey by open sourceintegration specialist Talend highlightedtalent as the biggest challenge when itcomes to implementing Big Data. "Theproblem is so widespread that in thissurvey, 52% of respondents specificallycited a lack of expertise in-house as theirmajor problem, after budgets and timeallocation.”Source: Talend Survey Explores Big DataMarket; Human Resources Still the BiggestChallenge, CMS Wire, David Roe,March 5, 2013)
  11. 11. The Talent Acquistion Imperative – How Big Data Helps and How to Start Now 10Closing ThoughtsBig Data is here. Do you wait, or act now?As Virginia Rometty, Chairman and CEO ofIBM, recently stated, “Data will be the basis ofcompetitive advantage for every company, everyindustry for the next decade.”And without question, it is supporting HR’s evolutionfrom a traditional administrative function to a morevaluable partner and player within the business—one that can help deliver true business resultsthrough strategic Talent Acquisition.Nothing is more critical to business success thanhaving the right talent in the right place at the righttime. By leveraging Big Data, HR can enhanceits recruiting efforts through more predictive,evidence-based decision-making.It’s not so much a matter of “if” you should act onthe “Big Data for HR” opportunity, but “when.”Those who take initial steps, ideally with help fromthe right external partners, will be well on theirway to transforming their Talent Acquisition effortsand enabling their companies to achieve greaterbusiness results.The time to act is now.
  12. 12. About eQuesteQuest is the world’s dominant and most utilized job postingdistribution company. Its primary customer base consistsof the majority of the Global Fortune 500. It also providesjob deliveries on behalf of the world’s largest ApplicantTracking Systems, ERPs, and job boards – managingthousands of companies through these channels. Presentjob posting deliveries average 250 million annually. Its BigData for HR division collects approximately 5 million jobboard performance statistics weekly – making eQuestthe Nielsen Ratings company of the HR industry. Otherproducts include consulting, OFCCP compliance and auditprotection, technology services, data analytics, Interactivemedia representation, SEO, and various predictive tools.eQuest was established in 1994. eQuest can be reached Headquarters2010 Crow Canyon Place, Suite 100-10016San Ramon, California 94583 USA+1 800.495.4479