Talent Analytics: What Should We Focus on?

A new study from Randstad Sourceright, The Randstad Sourceright 2015 Talent Trends Report, reveals the greater need companies perceive for Human Resources to guide business strategy. That guidance increasingly will be informed by talent analytics, the study suggests:

“The report reveals that more HR leaders are putting greater priority on strategic, business-focused initiatives for 2015, such as the need to move beyond purely administrative tasks to provide the insight and support that shape a high-performing business strategy. In addition, as business leaders continue to demand more from HR, the function must invest in new skills and sharpen existing ones. The right talent management technology is key to achieving this, by way of delivering crucial talent analytics to assist workforce planning, optimize recruitment costs, and improve quality of hire and productivity… The majority of HR leaders recognize the need to incorporate analytics and predictive workforce intelligence; 56 percent indicate they use talent analytics and insights to inform their workforce planning process.”

What talent analytics do you use at your company?

In my writing for Training over the last 10 years, I’ve heard a lot from companies about the emphasis they place on monitoring employee retention and engagement. The interesting thing to me, however, is despite the emphasis companies usually say they place on those two analytics, I don’t see much evidence of this in the American workforce. I keep hearing on the news—and experiencing myself—wage stagnation, and know from my own experience, and that of friends, that it’s still an employer’s, rather than an employee’s, market, in the U.S.

When you say that retention and employee engagement are important to your company, how does that play out in impact on employees?

One trend I’ve noticed is to forego merit-based salary increases in favor of universal 2 to 3 percent cost-of-living increases about once every other year. I guess the rationale is that a company with a large (or even a majority) of highly performing employees doesn’t want to try to segment out those who deserve a reward more than others. I like the logic from a team cohesion point of view, but from an individualistic point of view, it’s depressing, because no matter how great everyone at the company is, there has to be a way of rewarding stand-out accomplishment.

When I first started writing for Training in 2005, forced ranking was a hot topic. As I understand it, this is the system in which a manager is forced to rank all those who work under her. The problem with this system, as it was presented to me, is the employees aren’t being ranked in terms of levels of job performance, but in terms of how essential each employee is judged. Somehow that means a low-level staff member who carries a heavy workload that the business operation couldn’t exist without, can be ranked as less essential than another employee who is at a higher level, and is considered a decision-maker, and, yet, doesn’t actually carry as heavy a load in the business’s day-to-day operations. As the junior writer on my work teams for years (I’ve now advanced to managing editor), I’m pretty sure I was at the bottom of the rankings, despite my heavy output of work. Forced ranking also poses a challenge in that you’re ranking people against each other who do entirely different kinds of work. You could have an administrative assistant in a department ranked against a sales rep, who, in turn, is ranked against a marketing copywriter. Forced ranking isn’t the answer to allowing companies to find ways of increasing engagement and retention by figuring out whom to reward with salary increases.

So what is the answer?

One idea is to have a company’s departments take turns providing employees with salary increases, with a set number of salary increases, or a set overall amount of money that can be spent on the increases, determined by the executive board. That way, every year, or every few years at least, each department would have a chance to parcel out at least a small number of salary increases. The departments would be forced to be selective about whom they choose for raises, and the department would have to defend itself if it chose not to reward any of its employees with increases.

In addition to retention and engagement, what other talent analytics are important to pay attention to? If I were a trainer or HR manager, I would be paying attention to the number of open positions annually that are filled by in-house candidates. Along with getting a reward for hard work, employees also want to see and experience evidence that the company is a place where they can grow, rather than stagnate.

What are the key talent analytics for your company? Are there any new talent analytics you’re thinking of adding or focusing on more heavily?