Leveraging Talent Intelligence to Address Broad Business Challenges

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Aug 19, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

If you’re focused on using talent intelligence to improve recruitment, stop. You’re far better off using it instead to address broader business issues. Indeed, as Marlieke Pols, my colleague and a talent intelligence consultant at Phillips, explains, talent intelligence is the application of external data relating to people, skills, jobs, functions, competitors, and geographies to drive business decisions. She further points out that it’s “about helping the organization make smart talent decisions, forward-thinking, evaluating best practices, interpreting labor market data, solidifying, and clarifying talent strategies.” 

In other words, you can see how the definition clearly extends beyond recruiting. 

Talent Intelligence in Times of Change

Talent intelligence is particularly powerful in times of change, during which decisive data-backed decision-making becomes vital. Certainly, we’re in one of those times now as a mix of different trends and forces impact business: There’s high unemployment in the United States; labor shortages on European farms and in construction and factories; a large drop in the number of roles being advertised in the United Kingdom; Indian factories facing huge labor shortages as people work 12-hour shifts;  and Amazon increasing its workforce

Meanwhile, even before COVID-19, a 2018 KornFerry study predicted that “global labor shortages of 85.2 million skilled workers are projected by 2030, resulting in lost revenue opportunities of $8.452 trillion — the combined GDP of Germany and Japan.”  An underlying skills gap may make this worse as companies slowly start to resume activity. It may even be exacerbated by the increased rate of digital transformation that the pandemic has enforced. 

And there’s a lot of digital transformation happening. Not long ago, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, wrote: “In April, we saw more than 200 million Microsoft Teams meeting participants in a single day, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Also, Teams now has more than 75 million daily active users…In this era of remote everything, we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” 

All this change and transformation has meant that organizations have had to pivot at a rate never before seen. Consequently, companies are entering new territory as they look for skills that they haven’t needed historically. 

With all this change comes opportunity. Talent leaders have an opportunity to be center stage and to genuinely influence strategy and business direction like never before. Talent functions can really influence whether their organizations flourish or struggle to survive post-COVID. 

As Laurence Collins, a partner at the consultancy Digiworkz recently said:

“Leaders are now, by default, in a race to wholesale workforce transformation. The only way to win is to depend on data. That’s why the insights…are no longer an optional nice-to-have. They are an imperative to the successful reshaping of work, workforce, and workplaces globally.” 

Partnering With Your Company’s Business Leaders

We can use this time to influence the business and its leadership far more strategically than we may have done historically. We can move away from talent acquisition analysis and recruitment intelligence, (including pipeline analysis, application channel analysis, looking to reduce time to hire, cost per hire, etc.), which, although vital and valuable, is not necessarily early enough in the decision-making cycle to truly impact the organization. Rather, we can look at the much larger business decisions far earlier in decision-making cycles. This might entail:

  • Partnering with real estate teams to transform your physical footprint given that the future of the workforce could look more distributed due to the increase in remote work. 
  • Working with business and functional leaders to look at new competitor organizational mapping and benchmarking to help drive internal functional transformation. You might also evaluate leadership hiring opportunities, which can subsequently change the future course of the company, as well as align it with a longer-term mission and vision.
  • Completing a competitor hiring analysis to understand other companies’ potential pivots. It’s a chance to gauge how different businesses might work in new ways in the future as leading (rather than the usual lagging) indicators. Likew
  • Driving workforce transformation (geographical, skills-based, etc.) through an external lens that effective talent intelligence can provide.
  • Helping M&A stakeholders to see potential acquihire targets given the pivot you may be going through as an organization. 

Data Resources

As mentioned earlier, data will be the key to driving these conversations. The good news is there are lots of freely available data resources to tap into, including: 

  • Internal HR systems and sources. This includes your HCM, ATS, CRM solutions, as well as any other software managing compensation and benefits, finance, marketing intelligence, etc. Meanwhile, it’s worth pointing out that most organizations carry large amounts of data, but it’s often siloed and poorly shared. This is the time to look to build relationships and bridges company-wide to leverage data more holistically. 
  • Your people. Intelligence generated through conversations with employees and candidates are huge — and hugely under-utilized — sources of information.
  • External relationships with labor market providers. This includes job boards and recruitment firms, which often have access to large amounts of primary data.
  • External platforms. A number of external sources of information can be helpful, such as Stratigens, Talent Neuron, LinkedIn Talent Insights, Horsefly Analytics, EMSI, Draup, and Burning Glass.
  • Macro data sets. Sources include the International Labor Organization, the Bureau Labor Statistics, OECD Skills for Jobs, Eurostat, World Bank Labor Force, CIA World Factbook, and EU Open Data Portal.
  • Targeted local statistical bodies. Some examples are Statistics Poland, Hungarian Central Statistical Office, Statistics Slovakia, China Statistics, Beijing Statistics, Czech Statistical Office, etc. There will likely be a relevant statistical body for whichever geography you are looking into. 
  • Various research and consultancy vendors. There’s never any shortage of these!

Part of your aim should be to upskill your teams around data manipulation, data interpretation, competitor analysis, and market intelligence. Get them to understand terms such as OSINT and HUMINT. (You are likely already using these terms without realizing it!). Ensure your teams know how to use these techniques and tools in a labor market context.

Also start to think about who in your team can fulfill certain roles: Who is a data wrangler? Who is a data manipulator? Who is a data storyteller? 

I also highly recommend reaching out to other peers looking to build and share talent intelligence capabilities. Groups such as the Talent Intelligence Collective (on Facebook) foster collaborative environments in which knowledge sharing is key. 

Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that this is not the time to go into our shells. This is the time to be bold, be brave, and be a truly strategic partner to our leadership by bringing labor market data to the decision-making table like never before. 

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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