People Power: Harnessing Talent Data to Grow Your Business

Sometimes, there’s no turning back.

Brick-and-mortar stores are never going to put internet retail out of business. Broadcast networks won’t slow the trend of viewers streaming or DVRing shows to watch later. And the business world is not about to shift away from the Big Data revolution.

Why? Because data mining works. If you collect the right data and know how to manipulate it, it yields useful findings.

Today, the breakout trend is in talent management. Companies have long kept detailed accounting records, carefully measured materials buying and production output, and counted and recounted inventory until they got it exactly right. Employees? Eh, they show up for work. Some are smart, some are productive, some are lazy. A few steal stuff. What’re ya gonna do?

In reality, though, people are every company’s most important asset. Why not put the same effort into your most precious resource as you do into determining how many 2x4s to order?

Here are four big reasons for collecting talent data:

1) It informs hiring and promotion decisions. If you’ve ever used a personality assessment, you’ve gathered talent data. A valid personality assessment continues to be the best foundation for talent-related data collection. Its output reveals an applicant’s or employee’s intrinsic motivations and behavioral tendencies.

Consider a strong staff member you are considering rewarding with a supervisory role. Often, the attributes that make a good individual contributor—conscientiousness, rule following,  task focus—aren’t the same attributes that make a good leader—communication skills, decisiveness, composure.

A personality assessment shows you if that person has what it takes to make the transition and where coaching areas lie.

2) It improves enterprise-wide consistency in hiring and development. While the human element will always be the most critical part of the hiring equation, everyone harbors unconscious biases—including managers.

This is one of the reasons departments develop their own cultures: Managers hire in their own image, promote people they like, and make decisions based on their own perspectives on work performance and accountability.

With talent data, companies can limit those biases by looking more objectively at performance, motivation and potential, increasing consistency both in terms of who is selected for employment and who is deemed qualified for promotion.

3) It helps identify high-potential employees. One of the best and least expensive ways to find top performers is to look at people already on staff. Employees are often underutilized by their organizations, or they have great potential but are in the wrong roles.

Meaningful talent data on your existing team members will show you who has untapped leadership potential, project management attributes or sales acumen, as well as a quality that is often invisible until you take the step of quantifying it with talent data: learning agility.

The agile learner applies knowledge cross-functionally and adapts effectively in a changing business environment. That describes the world we work in now. Find that person. 

4) It enables competency modeling. To truly transform a sales force, a service operation or other broad functional area within your organization, develop competency models.

First, identify the skills and behaviors that lead to success in a given role or function. Then, measure new applicants against the model. In time, your team will be populated by the employees who best align with your success factors, resulting in greater productivity and reduced turnover.

The catch: You can’t do a competency model without talent data. Otherwise, it’s merely guesswork, and it’s subject to the same biases that influence other decisions.

Once you’ve collected enough meaningful data, the doors swing open. Suddenly, you can see your current unrealized potential, as well as your talent gaps. You can get a grip on succession planning. Ultimately, you can construct a hiring and development strategy that begins to move you in the direction of your ideal state, where you’re an innovator and industry leader.

The future is now, as they say. Don’t show up late!

Eric Baker is a writer and editor at Caliper, a talent management solutions company that leverages decades of data and validated assessment results to provide deep insights into employee and candidate potential, predict job performance, and uncover developmental opportunities for the workforce.