6 Steps to Getting Started With Analytics in Recruiting

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Nov 3, 2015
This article is part of a series called How-Tos.

Analytics, analytics, analytics. Industry thought leaders and vendors alike espouse the virtues of data and analytics, and how it will revolutionize recruiting. Yet still the majority of talent acquisition leaders — just like their cousins in HR — apparently remain to be convinced with uptake seeming to have stalled.

Does this mean analytics is a false idol? Not according to Josh Bersin, a consultant who argues that analytics — like pretty much every other business trend — will not grow in a straight line but exponentially. I concur with Bersin that significant growth is imminent and that in 10 years analytics will be a staple part of recruiting and HR.

This is what has happened with other business functions like Marketing, Sales and Finance, which is hardly surprising when you look at the return to the business of investing in analytics. Nucleus Research reports that the average returns from analytics have been increasing and reached $13.01 for every dollar spent in 2014.

Bersin (him again) in a recent Wall Street Journal article cited the findings of research conducted by his company into the benefits enjoyed by the 14 percent of companies who have already developed mature people analytics capabilities. As well as generating better talent outcomes in terms of leadership pipelines, talent cost reductions, efficiency gains, and talent mobility, perhaps the most telling finding was that the share prices of this pioneering 14 percent outpaced the S&P 500 by an average 30 percent from 2011-14. If that doesn’t make the case for people analytics, I don’t know what does.

Recruiting is arguably the perfect shop window in the HR function for analytics as not only should hiring great people be of utmost importance for all organizations, but hiring is high-volume, comprised of repeatable processes, and for too long has been primarily based on intuition and unconscious bias.

What is holding back wider spread adoption of analytics, from the conversations I have with talent acquisition leaders, seems to be a mixture of fear (as in too much) and knowledge (as in too little). Combined, these two blockers lead to inertia and the inevitable preservation of the status quo.

For an aspiring analytically minded talent acquisition leader to start, well, the six steps below are certainly not a silver bullet, but they should — if carefully adopted — at least help recruiting functions start the journey:

Start with the business problems: The first commandment of recruiting analytics is “thou shalt start with the business problem.” What are the challenges that are keeping your CXO and business leaders awake at night? How many of these can be solved (or partly solved) through analysing recruiting data? Hone your abilities to ask the right questions and to identify those issues that have the potential biggest impact.

Focus on a quick win: Don’t be too ambitious too soon. Start small and focus on some quick wins. This doesn’t mean you cannot have a big impact — you can, especially if you identify an initiative that can make an immediate difference while also delivering longer-term productivity gains as well as cost or time savings. This approach is also the one most likely to help you secure a bigger budget for analytics initiatives over time.

Don’t obsess about the data: So now we’ve established that you start with the business challenge rather than the data, but what about the purity of the data? This is where many analytics initiatives get bogged down. You certainly need to be able to trust your data — you may be challenged on it — and of course it needs to be specific to the business problem you are trying to address, but don’t obsess that it has to be perfect. Data collection, preparation, and hygiene will likely be the most time consuming part of the process, but in itself it has no value, and don’t be afraid to ask for help …

Make friends with Finance and IT: It may seem anathema to many recruiting leaders, but when it comes to analytics you need to be prepared to make friends with colleagues in Finance and IT. Their experience of obtaining, cleaning, and analysing data will likely be invaluable in helping you arrive at your recommendations. Combining your recruiting data with business data will also provide critical additional insights.

Tell a story: We all love a good story, don’t we? Successfully driving through initiatives linked to recruiting analytics is no different. Be able to interpret the data, distill it into insights that unlock the business problem you are trying to solve, and create a compelling story to frame it are all absolutely key. The quality of your data or incisiveness of your analysis doesn’t matter if you are unable to make it resonate with your business stakeholders.

Be bold: 21st Century talent acquisition isn’t about playing it safe, it’s about being bold and in no area is bravery arguably more important than analytics. Not every initiative will succeed. Get used to the occasional failure, but stay the course and you will succeed more often than not.

This article is part of a series called How-Tos.
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