Talent Management
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By Brandon-Jo Mouna, IBM Canada Ltd.

Work smarter, not harder.


Work is becoming a means of identity, where the job you do defines who you are.

This evolution is placing new and unfamiliar complexities on the way human resources and employers do business – how they engage individuals, recognize talent, attract the very best and open up channels of communication and collaboration.


If we steer employees in the right direction and help them utilize their talent, both the employer and business win. Conventional wisdom is that people are the most valuable asset of any business. But if that’s true even just a small percentage of the time, many companies are guilty of letting their most precious resource wither on the vine.


It may not be intentional. Most managers won’t set out to create an unhappy work environment. Regardless, they still find themselves losing talented and skillful employees. How do you reach this group of people before they are disengaged and ultimately move on to other jobs? The model for success is to create and foster a collaborative and engaged mindset. The key here is to reach employees before they shut down and provide them with appropriate challenges, support and tools to keep them interested.


Data analytics has the potential to revolutionize HR. One recent survey suggests an astonishing 63 per cent of employees are not engaged and 24 per cent are actively disengaged with their jobs (Gallup Management Journal, 2013). It simply doesn’t have to be like this. Improving the way we work isn’t about working harder – it’s about working smarter.


Combining technology and human insight creates an abundance of information around human behaviour and workforce tendencies that employers have been collecting for decades. Until recently, we haven’t been able to extract and use this data. With advances in analytics, we now have the ability to understand this data while recognizing and analyzing trends that will help predict employee behaviour, identify talent quickly, match capabilities to market needs, retain top performers and act on proven insights to drive business outcomes.


Using new data, which includes 360-degree peer reviews, staff surveys or programs where efforts are recognized, organizations have a better understanding of employees’ day-to-day activities. Managers can intervene at the first sign of work dissatisfaction. Depending on the data available, we can even anticipate when employees might sour on their jobs while proactively finding ways to reward and retain personnel. And in cases where there are productivity issues, we can conclude from data whether the decline is a performance issue or a response to poor management.

Employee retention is just one aspect of human resources that will change dramatically thanks to the data revolution. With the aid of powerful analytic tools, recruitment could become a very different process, too. HR executives will have a much better understanding of specific job functions and they can use this information to target potential candidates and assess their suitability much more precisely.

With the aid of powerful analytic tools, recruitment could become a very different process, too. 


For instance, collecting and analyzing thousands of data points from high-performing employees allowed one financial services firm to identify the most common traits among its top sales executives. The best sales people did not necessarily have the best academic records, nor did they have the most impressive references.


They did, however, spell well. They also made few grammatical errors and often had experience selling real estate or cars.


This sort of information may seem somewhat random, but when used in conjunction with other factors, recruiters see a much clearer picture of a given candidate. Today, HR departments may also use much more accurate assessment tests than anything available even a decade ago. In the past, job applicants may have filled out a multiple-choice form so executives could evaluate personality traits. Now, a new wave of digital tests and games not only measure behaviour patterns or cognitive skills, they also serve as predictors of how long individuals might stay in a specific position.


On top of this, there is plenty of unused expertise and ideas sitting idle within companies. Tapping into this bounty has the potential to add customer value, create product or process innovation, or result in more engaged employees. Data analytics provides effective ways of predictably getting at these insights and applying misspent inventions to new problems or solutions.


Based on a recent IBM global study of more than 1,700 chief executive officers in 64 countries, we know that organizations worldwide recognize the need to utilize technology to assess employee engagement. Data analytics and the ability to turn the workforce into a market-intelligent network allow management to expand their ability to sense shifts in employee behaviour and respond nimbly.


It’s certainly a new world for employers and veteran human resource professionals. A field that has historically relied on psychology or “gut” instinct is becoming increasingly data-driven. Still, technology will never drive the “human” out of “human resources.” Big Data merely provides the tools to help HR professionals make the smartest possible decisions about employee recruitment, retention and compensation. Since happier employees make for more profitable companies, we all benefit.


Brandon-Jo Mouna is the HR Leader at IBM Canada Ltd

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