Plethora of Employee Data Integral to TM Process, Report Says

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By Rhonda Smith  

Although employers today are able to gather vast amounts of information about employees and job applicants, they are less successful in determining how best to use the data to affect business outcomes, speakers said Feb. 26 during a webcast held by consulting firm SHL to highlight findings from its fifth annual 2013 Global Assessment Trends Report.

“Less than half of organizations are using talent data to drive business decisions,” Ken Lahti, vice president of product development and innovation at SHL, a London-based firm that sells talent management products, said during the webcast. “The data on talent is considered very valuable, but the extent to which it is used to drive business decisions is less common.”

The report is based on an online survey conducted in September of 592 human resources professionals, primarily from China, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The report highlights employers' current talent assessment practices pertaining to internal and external job candidates.

Sprint's Talent Initiatives

Michael Blair, Sprint Nextel Corp.'s manager of recruitment operations and technology, said during the webcast that two key talent initiatives the wireless communications company is focusing on involve developing an integrated talent management strategy and making better use of data to foster employee retention and development.

“The integrated talent management strategy [involves] how to better capture information and roll it into our talent analytics databases,” Blair said, “and use that for training, performance management issues, and opportunities to help people advance their career.” Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kan., also has developed a set of online assessment and other automated tools, he added, and makes those available to the company's employees to help them guide their own career development.

Report Findings

Among the key findings in the SHL report, written by Sarah S. Fallaw and Tracy M. Kantrowitz, are:

• Social media data are not critical to hiring decisions. While about 60 percent of employers use or plan to use social media searches as a hiring tool this year, the report said, less than 30 percent believe the data are useful in determining candidate fit, and only 11 percent believe they are crucial to hiring decisions.

• There is room for improvement related to “big data.”Less than 25 percent of respondents said their organizations have a clear understanding of “workforce potential,” while less than half said they use objective data to make decisions about their workforce. Less than half said their organizations use talent data to drive business decisions.

• Emerging economies want to use mobile technology to assess job candidates.The report noted that HR professionals in China and India said that “more of their job candidates are asking to complete tests via mobile devices, and more of their recruiters want mobile access to candidate data, as compared to candidates and recruiters in established economies.”

• Employee engagement and leadership remain important.In 2013, 55 percent of survey respondents said engaging the workforce remains a top priority for their organizations. “ 'Keep and grow' nicely captures Sprint's strategy,” Blair said. Other priorities for HR this year include leadership development, performance management, workforce planning/analytics, and training, the report found.

• HR is not impressed with data management systems.“Fewer than one in five respondents reported being satisfied with their systems' ability to manage talent data,” the report noted. The authors said only 17 percent of HR professionals said their human resource information system is accessible by smartphones or mobile devices.


Advice for Best Uses of Data

Among the report's recommendations to HR:

1. Big data can help demonstrate business value. “Identify meaningful business outcomes relevant across the employee lifecycle--from recruitment to hiring and development,” SHL stated. “Linking these outcomes and the data sources will help HR measure and improve the effectiveness of talent management initiatives.”

2. The right data will lead to successful talent initiatives. “Be selective about the people data your organization owns and retains,” the report advised. “Prioritize objective data about candidates' and employees' competencies and measurable organizational metrics.”

3. Cautiously embrace innovation that improves how talent is recruited. “The growth of social media represents a threat as well as an opportunity,” the report noted. “Ensure your organization has a formal policy on the use of social media in recruitment decisions, specifying which information is of value and fair to candidates, and how it is to be used.”

4. Use mobile technology only if it offers a competitive advantage. “Giving candidates the opportunity to complete pre-hire assessments via mobile devices is a promising way for companies to engage them earlier, offering a potential competitive advantage to early technology adopters,” the report stated. “This is especially true in emerging economies, where demand is twice as high as in established economies.”


The report is available at

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