Although 87 percent of companies tell McKinsey that they struggle to find and retain talent, this important need seldom leads teams to create a coherent data strategy regarding hiring and retention. Companies need scarce, expensive skills from their talent while ensuring their employees are engaged, productive and happy. While data is routinely used in sales, marketing and customer success, HR, especially the attraction and retention of talent, is routinely overlooked.
According to Dr. Konstantin Wemhöner, Chief Digital Officer at kemb GmbH, “People development is regularly one of the least looked at fields for the use of data.” In tight labour markets, Wemhöner added: “The workforce is shrinking. Attracting the right talent is really tricky, so measuring where to do your recruitment is a good use case for data.” Without the right talent to deliver products and services, organisations cannot hope to increase their bottom lines.
Achieving employee buy-in
So why are companies reluctant to use data? According to Wemhöner, it is mainly the fear of upsetting employees and making retention yet harder: “There is a fifty-fifty split of some companies wanting to see what they can do with data, and others concerned about how their employees will take the use of data,” he said.
Wemhöner advises organisations to anonymise data in their people development and management practices. Anonymous data will reassure employees of their privacy while still enabling the business to aggregate data and identify trends. In addition, Wemhöner says data-centric businesses must discuss the use of data with employees. “You need to be absolutely transparent with the employees about everything you do with the data. This will help them understand that you are using data to create a better working environment… You are using data to be less subjective, and it can really make a difference. And you are avoiding wrong insights,” he said.
Silos and data strategy
Data about employees, their performance, time in service and talent development is often in silos. Those data silos exist because of a broad number of data sources that are often disconnected and don’t individually provide a clear picture of the business and its people. Business systems such as SAP, SuccessFactors and Workday are all distinct data sources that deal with separate parts of the employee experience, whilst forward-thinking companies are also looking to use unstructured data such as correspondence from chats, emails, project management tools and more. This wide range of data can paralyse team leaders. Wemhöner has seen this: “Most companies have a lot of historic data, and this is why it is important to have a data strategy, and to then move and centralise your data.”
People management, talent attraction and retention can benefit from some of the same analytics methods as sales and marketing. “There is a growing concept of the employer brand, and therefore you need a recruitment funnel that tracks an employee’s progression, like a customer journey,” Wemhöner said.
To start, data can highlight weaknesses in the recruitment process. Data-centric leadership teams are able to analyse the recruitment channels that the business uses, how the business performs at recruiting for certain role types and whether candidates match the advertised role. As McKinsey writes: “Companies are discovering that if they employ the latest in data analytics, they can find, deploy and advance more people.”
In addition, just as organisations monitor channels such as social media to gauge where potential customers are in the buying cycle, those same channels can help data-centric teams identify talent. Discussions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can reveal expertise and a desire to be part of the projects your organisation is launching.
Data will also indicate to the organisation where staff are feeling pain, which can eventually cause attrition as they look for new opportunities. “The organisation can unpack the reasons and can start conversations with the staff,” Wemhöner said. Sick days logged by staff, skills held and required and forthcoming retirement dates are just a few of the indicators team leaders can use to gauge employee engagement, the possibility of skill gaps appearing and a team’s ability to retain talent. All of these can enable team leaders to proactively make changes in the workforce before they negatively impact the organisation.
Talent attraction and retention, therefore, have to be at the centre of the organisational data strategy. Wemhöner sums it up as: “Being really good at working with data is a culture in a company. Organisations must understand that data is a tool and that they must enable the entire workforce.”