Harnessing the Power of Data


A look at how three organizations gained a competitive advantage by tapping analytics in the battle for talent

We live in a world of unprecedented access to data. The potential of “big data”, which refers to extremely large datasets that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, has been lauded by executives across all industries and disciplines. Pundits have shouted from the rooftops how data scientists and advanced machine learning will revolutionize the way that businesses make decisions.

Yet, the reality is that while companies may have access to more data than ever before, their ability to extract meaningful business insights is not keeping pace with the availability of the data. According to a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 managers conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS Institute, the competitive advantage with analytics is waning. The percentage of companies that report obtaining a competitive advantage with analytics has declined from 68% in 2012 to 52% in 2015.

HR executives are feeling this pain in very acute ways, as the war for talent has made successful talent acquisition strategies a business-critical component. Achieving a competitive advantage through actionable insights into data has become the “holy grail” for these talent-starved enterprises. It is more important than ever for these managers to access the kind of talent that will allow them to drive value from the data, in the form of new solutions and actionable plans.

Within the world of Human Resources and Talent Acquisition, one of the most data-rich landscapes is that of the contingent workforce. Companies are employing contingent labor across the globe, in a variety of different work arrangements. A savvy HR executive will want to harness this information to help them make key decisions about where, when, who, and how to employ their workers. Ground-breaking innovations in contingent workforce management continue to shape the industry, and mastering the ability to stay abreast of, or even ahead of peers in this space can mean the difference between success and failure.

Recently, a large utility’s company was able to leverage their contingent worker data to help them facilitate the decision-making process on when to renew, release, replace, or re-deploy contingent workers. By understanding what known resources were going to be available, they were able to look at both objective and subjective data points to evaluate each worker’s performance to determine if they should retain them. They looked at enterprise-wide data to identify where the organization’s biggest talent deficits existed, and in many cases, relocated these workers to new areas without having to utilize recruiting channels. In cases where they elected to re-source a position, they leveraged data on their recruiting processes to determine when to start sourcing and where to look for talent. The ability to make decisions from the data saved this company hard dollars that would have gone to recruiters as well as time-savings for the managers and talent acquisition.

Another example of how to maximize workforce data relates to holistic workforce management otherwise known as “Total Talent Solutions”. Total Talent Solutions is a term in the contingent workforce industry that is garnering a lot of attention as companies look to optimize their workforce. The idea is that a company can use one platform to monitor and evaluate their entire workforce including permanent and non-permanent employees of all engagement types. While the idea is a good one, the execution of tangible business results in this area has been extremely disappointing to date. Most companies either lack the access to the data, the expertise, and understanding of how to measure and track the contingent workforce, or the ability to execute both.

However, some organizations have been able to make tremendous leaps in their ability to leverage internal and external datasets to drive actionable insights for their entire workforce. A global technology company recently married their employee and non-employee data, enabling them to see across their entire workforce, understand costs associated with different worker engagement types, determine where their talent pipelines were best suited to fulfill their talent deficits, and where their physical office locations would support additional headcount. This helped their HR, talent acquisition, facilities, and workforce planning departments to be more proactive. It also resulted in significant operational and strategic wins. For example, PRO Unlimited, a leading purely vendor-neutral Vendor Management System (VMS) and Managed Services Program (MSP) provider has helped clients develop a “pricing curve” that included different types of worker engagements (from premium consultants on high side through project workers, staffing workers, independent contractors, full time, and payroll) to educate and assist managers with hiring decisions. The use of this data and consulting services also enabled their workforce planning department to include accurate budgets of all worker types in their OPEX budgets for the first time in company history, which was lauded by management.

A third example focuses on a pharmaceutical giant that was having difficulty attracting and retaining top-tier talent within one of the U.S.’s most highly-competitive markets. In order to better understand the experience from the view of their workforce, they leveraged publicly-available data, a variety of specifically-targeted internal data points (including data points that analyzed employer ratings on Glassdoor, as well as highly-customized surveys delivered directly to their workforce. Feedback during the talent acquisition and worker termination process were also included in the analysis to compile and summarize how they were being viewed by different types of workers. They were also able to understand why their workers were leaving the company, or why they were staying. This information was critical as the enterprise was able to take advantage of it to make changes to their worker policies and to create new brand awareness campaigns. Within a short period of time, the company realized improvement in the number and quality of candidates, as well as an uptick in their overall retention numbers.

As previously mentioned, the access to data has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. However, the ability to make that data useful, or the ability to extract actionable intelligence from that data, continues to wane. It is critical for organizations to identify individuals within their organizations, or key business partners that have the ability and expertise to extract these meaningful insights. An organization’s willingness and ability to do so could make the difference in the global war for talent.

Dustin Burgess
Vice President, Strategy, Analytics, & Metrics at PRO Unlimited


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