Actionable data will be key for future talent acquisition in 2018 and beyond

Guest Blog by Charles Hipps, CEO and Founder, WCN


Forrester reports 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% are actually successful at connecting analytics to action. Actionable insights appear to be the missing link for companies that want to drive business outcomes from their data. HR will be no different.



In talent acquisition and retention, when you’re using aggregated data sets to make decisions, you need to make sure that you’re correcting for existing biases.  Obviously intelligent technology has advanced a long way in twenty years, but it would be foolish to assume that bias is no longer a problem – instead when biases are recognised, it’s possible to adjust for them.


This is no mean task. In 2018 and beyond, HR professionals will need to become better at interpreting any data they choose to refer to. Evaluate it, perhaps using a data mining tool, and then be sure to make decisions based on it. At the point of analysis though, you need to be challenging very carefully about the risks of bias and how you are going to correct for that. Intelligence cannot just be artificial – humans have to understand how it will go on to be used.


Even the White House has sounded caution on this: “The era of big data is full of risk. The algorithmic systems that turn data into information are not infallible—they rely on the imperfect inputs, logic, probability, and people who design them. Predictors of success can become barriers to entry; careful marketing can be rooted in stereotype. Without deliberate care, these innovations can easily hardwire discrimination, reinforce bias, and mask opportunity.”


There is a fundamental point here. Data in itself will not get you a decision, you need to have data, you need to be able to generate insight and you also need to be able to link that to an action.  So therefore the humans should never be taken out of the equation. Technology itself is simply just an enabler. And the more complex the technology becomes, the simpler it needs to be.


We’re all used to having technology influence our everyday decisions – from the music we listen to, to the road directions we take to get from A to B.  To apply this to talent acquisition, intelligent technology needs to be just as easy to use and compelling in its results. If it’s not actionable, it’s just numbers on a computer screen and where’s the point of that?!


To take just one example, in an increasingly competitive job market, an organisation may receive applications from hundreds of highly-qualified, hopeful graduates for just a few vacancies.  Often, it will take a disproportionate amount of human effort to sift through them.  Crucial experience, context or personal attributes may be lost in the morass of information.  Application forms may be divided amongst several people who each take a slightly different approach.  Some may not be given due attention, simply because they are considered at the end of a long day.  As a result, gifted candidates may be overlooked due to human fallibility or unintentional bias. To meet these challenges, AI systems can put to effective use in conducting an initial review of applications, to produce a shortlist of candidates for interview.


Talent acquisition can be intelligent by following this style of technological exploration. Readable and actionable data is the future for doing this. We anticipate lateral hiring to follow suit. Foresight is the future and follows in the footsteps of the many already using horizon scanning for workforce planning. Are you ready to take the leap and change the game for the better?


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