Workforce Intelligence: Your Organization's Untapped Resource

By HR Metrics Coach & BlackbookHR

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In the ever-evolving marketplace, organizations are looking to optimize and leverage their available resources to achieve their objectives.  Regardless of your industry, organization-type (profit/non-profit) or workforce size, you have an unleveraged asset, your “Talent Data.”


What is "Talent Data"?

We have labeled all of the people required to meet an organization’s objectives as “Talent.”  Talent is defined as the human beings who use their skills and abilities to enable an organization to function. Talent includes full and part-time employees, temporary/seasonal employees, contingent/contract workers and even potential workers (i.e. applicants/passive candidates). Therefore, Talent Data is the information and insight that an organization has available on its various pools of talent.  This information can include demographic, mobility/activity, behavioral and social data associated with the talent pools within an organization.


Why Does Talent Data Matter? Haven't I heard this all before?

Literally for decades, economist and business scholars have been trying to crack the code to accurately quantify the impact of “human capital” by understanding the relationship of the workforce to business outcomes.  In the 1970s this was called “Manpower Accounting” and was met with great promise, but the tools and technology were rudimentary and the effort was considered too great to create value for organizations.

The landscape has changed and continues to evolve.  You would be hard pressed to find a financial or management magazine on the newsstand that did not feature an article on “Big Data”, “The Quants” and/or “Predictive Analytics”.  There is no doubt there has been an explosion of data produced and increased computing capacity.  Technology is being used to analyze data to extract value, insight, and competitive advantage – we are in the midst of a data revolution. (Some people call it a Big Data Revolution but that is an article for another day.)

In the world of marketing and customer behavior, it is not an overstatement to say these new developments have been groundbreaking.  In the financial sphere, the ability to quantify risk is quickly becoming a commodity, and in the menacing world of security and fraud prevention these tools offer the promise of preventing human, social and financial

How will these developments impact your organization’s performance and how does Talent Data play a role?  For many of us, our organization’s single largest expense or investment is people-related.  The Data Revolution will enable organizations that are prepared to better leverage this powerful and differentiating resource like never before.


Defining Our Terminology

For those without a strong background in science or social science, the terminology of the Data Revolution can be confusing and a little overwhelming.  This section is intended to provide a framework to explain how Talent Data becomes Workforce Intelligence.

Talent Data is merely information. It is the basic building block of creating workforce intelligence; it is our atom. In statistics, data is defined as numbers used to interpret reality, but your Talent Data asset is broader than just quantitative information. It includes qualitative dimensions such as employee engagement responses, text mining, and workforce networks.

Metrics are two or more pieces of data used to describe an outcome.  Metrics include efficiency, performance, quality, etc.  In the context of Talent Data, the most common metrics are separation (termination), promotion, hiring rates, employee engagement scores and diversity representation.  A metric on its own tells you nothing.  You need context and/or standards to interpret a metric.  For example: Is “65” good or bad?  If it is 65 miles per hour on the highway, you are probably ok.  If it was 65% accuracy on your math test, you might have been in trouble with your parents. 

Data Analysis is the process of examining information, such as a metric, to gain a better understanding.  It is a discrete activity, meaning you breakdown individual matters, not systemic issues.  Data analysis answers the question “what is driving this result?” or “how has this result changed over time?”

Data Analytics is the art and science of applied statistics.  With data analytics we “interrogate” the data looking for hidden relationships and patterns within a data set.  It allows us to infer facts that cannot be seen through our analysis.  Data Analytics requires creativity in two ways.   It requires imagination to develop theories or hypothesis about what might be behind the observed results and the ingenuity to display the data in a compelling fashion (data visualization).

Data Intelligence is the application (emphasis added) of analytics to make organizational decisions.  Data Intelligence is about sharing knowledge in a persuasive and informative manner. A well-designed scorecard is one example of Data Intelligence.  When your organization is able to act on Talent Data, analysis and analytics you create workforce intelligence! 


The Workforce and Marketplace Opportunity

While it may be difficult to hear, our current workforce practices have their roots in the turn of the 20th century.  There has been some tinkering to workforce practices but no disruption the way robotics changed manufacturing, or the human genome project changed biomedicine, or the Internet changed retail (along with everything else).  Imagine a breakthrough that enables you and your organization to optimize and retain your desired talent to achieve better outcomes.

If you are a business leader, people manager and/or HR professional you make multiple decisions within any given day.  Some of these include hiring, training, rewarding, developing, evaluating and firing talent, hopefully in the spirit of increasing organizational performance to achieve better outcomes.  These are just a few workforce activities that can be improved with better talent data and decision-making tools.  Informed decisions yield improved processes that help to eliminate waste, increase productivity, foster innovation and/or promote organic growth. 

We believe this data revolution is and will continue to change our workforce practices.  Organizations who are early adopters (like other disruptive innovation) will capture both a short and long-term competitive advantage over their peers. Understanding and leveraging talent data will equip and enable an organization to better invest their resources regarding talent, culture, leadership and strategy.


How data fluent are you?

Click here to take a quiz to assess your talent data fluency.


Need help?

Organizations where talent is employed and deployed to create marketplace advantage look to BlackbookHR and HR Metrics Coach to support their capacity and capability to optimize Talent Data. 

  • BlackbookHR enables companies to source and apply employee engagement data and relationship network insights to improve retention and performance.
  • HR Metrics Coach equips organizations with the knowledge, resources and tools to optimize Talent Data and make informed decisions.

Both BlackbookHR and HR Metrics Coach are committed to helping organizations achieve better results through Talent Data.