People are the biggest asset and cost for most companies – so new ways of streamlining the process of hiring, retaining and firing are being developed every day.
Combining social media and big data is resulting in the creation of a wonderland of possibilities for HR – the arm of business dedicated to making sure a company has the right people in the right place at the right time.
If you’re responsible for picking out candidates for jobs, or managing internal reshuffles, you’re probably already aware of the recent explosion of ways to sort the wheat from the chaff – or at least, talk of it.
And if you’re one of the millions seeking employment, you should be more aware than ever of what you should, or shouldn’t, be sharing, to make yourself an enticing prospect.
However there is a vast difference in the effectiveness of big data analytics in HR between different companies. A study last year by Forbes found that while 60% of companies claim to be integrating it into their procedures, just 4% have reached the stage of putting predictive analytics to work for them.
This is where companies are able to take the freshly analyzed data and use it to make informed decisions about the future of its business.
In HR terms this could range from whether or not to hire an individual for a position, or whether an employee’s poor performance is likely, statistically, to continue, or improve.
The same Forbes study looked into the connection between performance, pay rises and staff retention, and found that middle-performing staff could be expected to remain loyal if paid as little as 91% of the average earnings for their age and profession, while high-flying staff will look elsewhere if offered under 120%.
Data like this enables companies to follow the business principle of putting the most resources into the procedures (or in the case of HR, the people) which produce the majority of the results.
However some might be justifiably concerned that in this case it appears big data is already being used as justification for increasing the salaries of top-earners within organisations, while minimising pay rises for the majority of staff.
Evidence suggests it works, though. Printer manufacturer Xerox achieved a 20% reduction in staff attrition when it hired an analytics firm to come up with a profile of its ideal call-centre employee – finding that they should be local, have reliable transport, be creative and not ask too many questions.
Everything from the time it takes for an employee to progress through a training scheme, to staff turnover under particular managers, can be catalogued and analyzed to increase productivity and ultimately drive down the huge overheads of unproductive or misplaced staff.
And as for job hunters, the advice now goes beyond the weary old “be careful what you share”. Today, it is equally important to be careful what you don’t share.
An impressive and well-connected social media account is something that is now expected, rather than desired, especially, but no longer exclusively of people looking for positions in marketing, communications and external relations.
For several years companies have been using Klout scores, which amalgamate information from across many social networks to build an image of your credibility.
Other services such as the recently launched Trustcloud are ostensibly designed for use in making peer-to-peer trust based decisions, such deciding whether to offer a peer loan – however companies can also make use of the data to gain an insight into an employee’s perceived trustworthiness.
Until recently this may all have been done fairly surreptitiously – managers quietly checking out public Facebook or Twitter feeds for signs of worrying personality traits or extreme views. But can we expect big data-based analysis of social media footprints to become a more formally documented procedure, going forward?
Most controversial, though, are devices such as Hitachi’s recently-announced Business Microscope.
Basically it’s a “smart badge”, equipped with GPS and monitoring equipment, able to track not just an employee’s movements around the office (and therefore time spent on coffee or toilet breaks) but who they are talking to – and even how enthusiastic they are sounding during the conversation.