Data discernment in talent intelligence

Are the days when decisions around talent acquisition and hiring based on gut feeling and intuition about to be consigned to the past?

A recent whitepaper suggests that with the emergence of talent intelligence as a discipline within talent acquisition (TA) and recruitment, the days of using gut instinct and ‘feelings’ to recruit might be numbered.

The report argues that a combination of rapid technological change, which has led to the emergence of new types of jobs, skills shortages, continuous business transformation, and more data than ever before, as well as the ability to access it, provides the ideal conditions and platform for talent intelligence to play an increasingly influential role.

Contributors to the report include practitioners in Philips, Microsoft, IBM and other major corporates, plus external research firms.

‘Talent Intelligence – Why, what and how: A guide to commercially successful Talent Intelligence in a digital era’ showcases how these firms are already using talent intelligence to help them in strategic decision-making.

As Toby Culshaw, global head of talent intelligence and executive recruitment research at Philips, puts it in the report: “As an organisation, we are going through a huge transformation. With this transformation, there is a growing demand, importance and value that talent and market intelligence teams can provide in determining organisations’ buy vs build strategy, talent attraction strategy and location strategy; this is what talent intelligence can provide.”

Marlieke Pols, talent intelligence analyst at Philips in the Netherlands, and author of the report, tells Recruiter that within Philips, “talent intelligence is no longer seen as a value-add but as a prerequisite when designing our talent sourcing strategy”.

She explains that as result of gaining its trust, the business now comes to talent intelligence for help with a variety of business problems. Most questions, she says, are about what is the best location to expand the business from the point of view of availability of people with the right skills, as well as the cost.

“Let’s say an organisation wants to open an AI centre, but what is the best location? You can’t open an AI centre in your headquarters just because you have been there for 50 years,” she says. The report shows that among those organisations, both corporates and external research firms contributing to the report, location feasibility studies are the most common service provided by talent intelligence, followed by competitor insights and talent insights/availability.

While companies such as Philips and others in the report are already some way down the road to integrating talent intelligence into their strategic business decision-making, the report provides examples of best practice that could help others on that journey. In addition, it highlights some challenges they are likely to face along the way, along with possible solutions.

According to Pols, the first scenario is when an organisation doesn’t have a talent intelligence function or capability. In this situation, she says it is vital to get buy-in from the senior leadership. “Otherwise, they will never come to you to advise on strategic business decisions they need to make,” she explains. The best way to do this is to help the business answer questions, she says, such as where to locate a particular business function. If you don’t have the capability internally, there are lots of research firms that can assist, she adds.

However, for organisations that already have a talent intelligence function, the report identifies a number of key areas on which they must focus their attention if they wish to develop a successful talent intelligence function.  

DEFINING TALENT INTELLIGENCE: The application of external data to people, skills, competitors and geographies, to drive business decisions

Collaborating with other functions

All the contributors to the whitepaper with a corporate intelligence department see collaboration with talent acquisition as vital. However, the report reveals that the way corporate talent intelligence departments collaborate with TA often differs between companies. For example, while IBM and Merck KGaA’s collaboration with TA is more centred around sourcing, Microsoft has built a network of intelligence across TA in both sourcing and recruiting. Although the report draws a line between talent intelligence and HR/people analytics, with the former using external data and the latter internal data, it suggests that for maximum insight the two should work in partnership.

Data quality and availability

The report states: “Data quality and data availability [are] an ongoing challenge for participants within a corporate talent intelligence function.”

Explains Pols: “There is so much data out there in the world due to technology advancements that data quality is sometimes a struggle. And also in emerging markets like China and Japan, it can be difficult to get the data.”

The report highlights a number of ways that organisations can enhance the quality of the data they use. These range from cross-validating data from a number of separate sources, relying on smaller pools of local data, and using a data range rather than a specific figure. The report shows the extent to which organisations rely on external vendors for their data; this reliance ranges from “a lot” in the case of Philips to no reliance in the case of Microsoft.

Measuring success

Being able to measure the success of talent intelligence is a key aspect of both getting senior level buy-in within organisations and in maintaining and enhancing the function’s value, says the report. While the cost “can be defined in most cases, benefit realisation is hard to grasp for most projects and difficult to materialise”.

“Quantifying findings into monetary values can help, but also presenting findings in the broader business context, and offering consultation, recommendations and advice to contribute to investment decisions also helps business leaders understand the value of talent research,” adds Mark Hodson, head, knowledge & insight services at strategic TA consultancy Armstrong Craven, who is quoted in the report.  

While customer feedback is universally used by the organisations contributing to the report, there are some important differences between the companies.

For example, Merck includes monetary impact, and time and quality increases, an anonymous company cited in the report looks at actions taken as a result of the research, and Microsoft asks whether the project met its objective. A key issue highlighted by the report is ensuring that the research once completed is actually used in decision-making.

Upskilling your team for evolving roles

The report is clear that to be effective, a talent intelligence team must have within it a mixture of both hard and soft skills. These range from the ability to analyse data, and to understand statistics to having great communication, consulting and influencing skills.

While some companies such as Merck believe that a data scientist background is needed, within the team at Philips all team members have similar skill sets and roles. However, the report shows that even though talent intelligence is still a relatively immature discipline, the roles of those working in it are constantly evolving. For example, IBM has given more of its team client management responsibilities, while an anonymous company has developed from being an intermediary between their clients and their vendors into a more technologically advanced and proactive team.

There is a consensus that as roles evolve over time in response to changing client demands and advances in technology, this will require ongoing personal development programmes and staff training.

While talent intelligence is still a relatively new discipline, Pols says the evidence from the increasing number of open vacancies online around talent intelligence demonstrates that the numbers working in this field are on an upward trend.

“By the end of 2020 and early 2021, the majority of the larger organisations will really use talent intelligence to inform strategic business decisions,” she predicts. 

Top tips

  • Decide whether to build your own talent intelligence team or outsource it
  • Identify areas where you can help the business improve its decision-making
  • Get senior leadership buy-in
  • In addition to collaborating with talent acquisition, build alliances with other stakeholders, such as HR/people analytics
  • Work how you measure success and identify relevant KPIs
  • Pay attention to quality of the data that you use
  • Upskill your team in line with client demands and changing technology

Image credit | Shutterstock

Own the change in 2020

Think about the strategies you need to put in place to adhere to the five principles of the Good

29 January 2020

Viewpoint: Expats still in demand

For decades, Saudi Arabia has depended on imported workers.

Oil & gas/Energy, Engineering 15 January 2020

FAST 50: From strength to strength

Constituents of this year’s Recruiter FAST 50 ranking grew by an average compound annual

15 January 2020

Insight: Psychology behind cyber security

No business is immune from the threat of a cyber attack, which can cripple operations and lead to

IT/Telecoms 15 January 2020