Making Sense of BigData in HR (aka Talent Analytics)


I'm going to start a series of blogs on the topic of BigData in HR (aka Talent Analytics).  In this installment I want to help you make some sense about what is going on. This is a preview of some of the topics I will be discussing on next week's webinar on BigData in HR (Tuesday June 26).

We have Entered The Analytics Era

First, there is a huge change taking place in business:  the shift toward "data-driven" decision-making. I like to think of it as the "era of analytics."

Thanks to cloud computing and huge amounts of transaction and social data available, we are now able to quickly and easily gain access to detailed data about customers, transactions, and people. This is the essence of the BigData or Analytics era we have entered.

For example, our company uses Salesforce (customer relationship management), Marketo (email and campaign management), OpenAir (project and time management), ADP (payroll and employee data), and our own internally developed website and membership platform. These systems are all cloud-based applications and we have been able to implement world-class applications for very low cost. I can run a report in 10 seconds which shows me every transaction, report download, phone call, and customer service call a given client has done with us over the last 8 years. This means if I want to know what customers, industries, or geographies are most interested in our leadership development offerings, for example, I can figure that out in an hour or so.

Only ten years ago this was virtually impossible.

As a result of this type of data now becoming readily available to businesses of all sizes, there is a revolution taking place in tools and platforms which help us analyze this data.  A company by the name of Splunk launched a platform to analyze systems performance and marketing data. The company is already valued at $2.8 Billion, or 23X revenues.

What does "Analytics" Mean?

We just published a major research study on the role of analytics and its maturity within human resources. Briefly explained, the concept of analytics is to use data to make intelligent decisions. I've been involved in this market since the early 1980s, and there are essentially four levels of maturity here (this is detailed in our research and tools available to members):

1. Operational reporting:  developing reports and dashboards which show you "where we are now."

2. Strategic reporting: developing detailed reports which let you drill, filter, and analyze "where we are" in great detail (ie. analyzing data by customer, by individual employee, by consumer, by region, etc.)

3. Strategic Analytics: using the data we have to correlate measures against each other, so we can see what relationships hold true.  For example is it true that "Financial Services Companies with more than 10,000 employees which have undergone restructuring are highly interested in revamping their leadership development?."  I could guess that this is true based on our own data, but with a little statistical correlation I can prove it.

4. Predictive Analytics: using the data and statistics from levels 1, 2, and 3 to create predictive models. Can I predict, for example, how many of our clients will purchase or download research on global leadership development in emerging economies based on the data I have?  Probably. And can I compare this potential investment vs. investment in global research on diversity or women in leadership? Yes.

Fig 1:  Bersin & Associates Talent Analytics Maturity Model (from BigData in HR Research)

The Impact of Analytics on Human Resources

As I will be discussing next week, all these tools and cloud-based systems now give us the ability to apply analytics to data about your people. As the World Economic Form points out, we have entered a global business environment where Talent is now the most scarce commodity on the planet. And as those of you in the HR space know, developing and acquiring talent is dauntingly complex.

Should we hire or promote from within? Where should we source new candidates from? What are the skills, background, and psychographic profiles that will most likely succeed in a given role? How many high potential leaders do we have and what is the risk of losing them? Where are our capabilities strong today and where are they weak? What capabilities do we need in the next five years and where are we strong in these areas? How well are people moving (mobility) through our organization from role to role? Why is turnover high in some areas but not others? What can we do to improve enagement (discretionary effort)?

I could go on for days. These are difficult questions to answer, yet if you CAN answer them your company could perform at much higher levels.

So if you want to be a strategic HR or L&D professional, it is imperative for you as an individual and you as an organization to put in place processes, systems, tools, and expertise to answer these questions. I guarantee your competitors are starting to do this now.

Keys to Success: Vendor Tools or You?

We have been studying this area since the early 2000s (when I wrote The Training Measurement Book) and what we've learned over the years is that while vendors have launched dozens of exciting products and tools, ultimately the key to success sits with you. Tools do not solve this problem – they enable you, as an organization, to put an analytics program in place. What we've found (and I will discuss this in next week's webinar), is that ultimately Talent Analytics (which is what we call this new era of HR analytics) must be a "program" within your company. You must build a team and level of expertise which lets you capture and analyze data, create models, and directly interact with your business leaders to answer the right questions with a deep level of rigor. Our research shows that this is a journey, not a destination, and that your ability to create trust and credibility is the most important thing of all.

Today you can purchase tools from companies like Mercer, SAP, Oracle, SHL, or small exciting companies like Visier

A little bit to chew on.  In our High-Impact HR research we found that only 6% of worldwide HR teams feel they are "experts" on the use of analytics in talent management today. Only 20% believe that the data they capture now is highly credible and reliable for decision-making in their own organization. And HR executives tell us that "analytics skills and the ability to make data-driven decisions" is one of the weakest skills in their teams.

The Impact of Analytics on You

This dramatically impacts your career. Now is the time for you to get comfortable with this topic and learn how to put in place the people, skills, and program you need to succeed. This is not a problem of "buying another system" or "selecting the right tool." All the tools are excellent in many ways. The key, as our research will show you, is to build a "program" which can grow, build credibility, and drive more and more business alignment every year.

Your analytics program will eventually cross between talent acquisition, engagement, compensation, and other areas of HR. And as we discuss in our research, it will also link to other analytics teams in your company (marketing, customer analysis, sales, and finance).

Our research members now have access to a wide range of tools, information, and professional development on this topic.  Watch this blog for more information and more details over the coming months.

If you want to build a world-class talent, HR, or L&D organization, now is the time to learn. Come join our membership and we will show you how to take the lead as part of the "Analytics Era" and make your talent decisions smarter every day.

Josh Bersin

Josh Bersin writes on the ever-changing landscape of business-driven learning, HR and talent management. His favorite topics include strategic talent management, creating high-impact learning organizations, and how organizations drive business change and competitive advantage through talent strategy and technology.

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