Winning at Basketball, and Recruiting, Big Data-Style

Jun 20, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 2.16.21 PMThe goal of any team sport is to win. Professional sports takes this concept one step further, since winning at the game also leads to greater revenue and profitability through higher attendance. When you think of professional sports as a business,  it becomes doubly clear why the management of those teams is always looking to find ways to gain competitive advantage.

This is why it is not surprising that Big Data analytics are finding their way into the sporting arenas around the globe.

“Moneyball” made the concept of data analytics in sports famous, but other stories highlight its use as well. For example, the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association are pioneering the use of data analysis to improve the performance of its talent. Through statistical analysis, the team was able to uncover a blind spot where they did not know they were under performing.

It discovered the pattern where opposing players were scoring against their star center 53 percent of the time when he was guarding them within five feet of the basket. With this new insight, the coaches were able to develop a strategy and a training plan that focused on addressing this gap and ultimately improved the performance of the overall team.

Mike Zarren, assistant general manager of the Boston Celtics, another NBA team that uses the same statistical analysis vendor, could have been speaking for the HR community about the analytics process when he said, “Whether you think you’re a ‘stats guy’ or not, the age of analytical thinking is upon us whether you like it or not.”

The parallels between sports and work teams are readily apparent. Regularly examining data for patterns, measuring for areas of under performance, and implementing a strategy to mitigate any issues is critical to a business’ financial success. Employers can now use data to find gaps and determine how best to fill those gaps. In David Lee’s case, his employer filled the gap with specific training. Other times, augmenting the team will be called for, particularly if time is a critical factor. This is one way where recruiting with Big Data analysis comes into play. Predictive analytics enable recruiters to more quickly fill the gap by providing a laser focus on which recruiting strategies will actually work.

This new capability not only provides recruiters with further opportunity to improve their operational efficiency but, even more importantly, gives the profession a means to draw a connection between their activity and the two most important metrics in business: revenue and profitability.

As another example, given the acknowledged critical value of talent acquisition to the bottom line of the company, talent acquisition professionals can zero in on the sourcing strategies that have the greatest success in finding the highest-skilled candidates, in the least amount of time, for the least amount of effort and spend. Big Data creates an opportunity for talent acquisition and sourcing professionals to glean key insights from the analysis of job board, candidate, and employer data to help you determine the best sourcing channels. Big Data can likewise help uncover valuable trends and patterns on “click decisions” — that is, why or why not a candidate takes the critical step to apply for your posted job — so that you can adjust your course of action and calibrate your processes accordingly, in real time.

Big Data is slowly but increasingly being applied throughout the talent acquisition process as organizations recognize both the success predictive analytics has had in marketing and customer service and the wealth of applicant and worker data available within their own systems. Businesses can now comprehensively compare and analyze data from a myriad number of sources to see connections that were not readily apparent before. Applied to talent acquisition, recruiters are now able to streamline their processes and take quicker action based on evidence, not on assumption or legacy procedures that no longer serve the employer.

As Virginia Rometty, chairman and CEO of IBM, recently stated, “Data will be the basis of competitive advantage for every company, every industry for the next decade.” Big Data is supporting recruiting’s evolution from a traditional “just in time” role to a more foresighted player and partner within the business — one that can help deliver true business results through strategic talent acquisition. Major sports teams see Big Data’s value and are reaping the results. Are you?

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