I recently published an article on LinkedIn discussing the need to move away from self-validated opinions when it comes to talent recruitment, talent acquisition, and talent attraction and the value that data can add to the talent recruitment process. In that article, I spoke about the role data plays in recruiting top talent and how to derive actionable insights from your talent recruitment process data and not only streamline your processes, but also make them more effective. Shelly stalked me on LinkedIn and asked for permission to republish that article here. So let’s take a look at how to derive actionable insights from your talent recruitment process data, shall we?
Actionable Insights Defined
So what do I mean by “actionable insights” and what’s my own example of how to derive actionable insights from talent recruitment process data? For starters, Techopedia defines and explains actionable insights as:
“Actionable insight is a term in data analytics and big data for information that can be acted upon or information that gives enough insight into the future that the actions that should be taken become clear for decision makers. It is often the result of extensive data analytics and other data processing; in short it is an analytics result that provides enough data for managers and organizations to make an informed decision.
Actionable insight is the result of data-driven analytics in the business world. Data analytics is used to answer “why” questions by capturing large amounts of data … which in turn provide insights into the patterns. Once there is enough insight that a proper course of action can be made from it, then this result is considered as an actionable insight”
Now I’ve been in recruitment, talent acquisition, and talent attraction for a number of years from agency to headhunting to RPO to in-house. Over the years, I’ve become increasingly data-oriented, and I really believe you can apply the principles of data to most markets and processes—no matter how big or small and no matter your own technical skillset.
For example, in my work, I’ve used combinations of Excel, SQL, Trello, and various add-ons such as Screenful, to provide useful insights when needed, and I’m sure that list of applications and platforms will only continue to grow over time. That’s the nature of business today, isn’t it? Data is everywhere, we just need to know how to find it, how to filter the noise, capture the relevant bits, analyse them, and put it to use.
The Challenges of the In-House Talent Recruiter
A particular challenge in-house recruiters face is the misperception or even possibly a complete lack of understanding of the skillset you bring to the hiring teams you face into. Some hiring teams initially believe you are simply an add-on to HR, or that you are simply ‘recruitment coordinators,’ or that you yourself don’t have an agency background and perhaps don’t really understand what they need. Believe it or not, hiring managers really do value agency recruiters, as do I, as that’s my personal background as well as for the majority of our team.
When you’re in these situations as an in-house recruiter, a lot of the initial groundwork is really all about credibility—yours. When speaking with new hiring managers or hiring teams that you’re working with but don’t yet know well, working to establish your credibility and the value you bring to the equation, as well as the validity of your opinions is critically important. This is because typically any change you want to institute moves that team off the beaten path and into what, for them anyway, is unknown territory.
In some instances, the people you’re working with have been hiring managers since before you were even in recruitment. The challenge you face in those situations is twofold. One part of that challenge is to earn credibility and quickly show the value you add, and the second part of the challenge is to influence, engage, and drive forward change. This can be especially challenging if you’re picking up a campaign midway through. Well, the answer, to solving both parts of that challenge is also twofold: One is the data insights themselves and the other is what you do with them—and how you do it. Numbers don’t lie, but human nature can be a tricky thing.
When evaluating a process, if you can monitor, capture, and document everything you do as part of the talent recruitment process, or any process really, it will be much easier to not only earn credibility with hiring managers, but also to derive actionable insights from your talent recruitment process data. Being able to show you can use the insights you’ve gleaned to help management make the correct decisions—well, that’s pretty powerful. But it takes a bit of patience.
Not All Data is Relevant [Actionable]
Let’s touch on data for a brief moment. When working with talent recruitment process data, you’ve got to constantly remind yourself that not all data is relevant and/or actionable. Some data points are, well, just data points. In some instances, you set them aside to deal with later, and in other instances, you can simply ignore them and move on. Here’s an example:
You’ll notice on the chart above, the hiring team was fairly active just before arranged holidays, then the holidays hit, and not surprisingly there was very little activity for the days the team was out of the office. As to be expected, the team’s activity built up again in the week following the holiday, and then it skyrocketed.
What does this mean in terms of productivity? Obviously, this could cause a delay to potential candidates being considered for positions, but it’s likely safe to say that that’s not an unexpected occurrence. Work holidays happen, personal holidays happen, and you certainly can’t say to key hiring managers that they can’t go on holiday. So, while this is an example of an interesting data point, it’s one that doesn’t happen often, and it general self-corrects the week after a holiday. What you have to keep in mind when looking at the data you’re analysing is that not all data is relevant, and that if you want to derive actionable insights from your talent recruitment process data, the data needs to actually be realistic. In this case, the data insights don’t really deliver up any “a-ha” moments, it’s just a fact. Work and productivity slow during holidays and pick up momentum afterwards.
When Data Changes Minds, It’s a Powerful Thing
We can probably all agree that an insight that drives action is likely to be more valuable than one that simply answers a question. What I think is really powerful is what happens when the data goes against your innate opinion and makes you rethink something, question things, or alters your recruitment trajectory. That’s why I say that when data changes minds, it’s really quite a powerful thing.
Here’s an example of a situation where data changed minds. Earlier this year I picked up a new business area. I got to grips with the basics, the current recruitment process, and current attraction strategy. Very early on, it was my opinion that the current process was not going to be sufficient to deliver on this recruitment campaign in today’s market. Although I was fairly certain of this, I’m also aware there are dangers in articulating an opinion without data to back up that opinion, especially when you’re the new man on the team.
So I went to work gathering data. Upon mapping everything, out the data showed that with the current process in place it would take over 57 days for the team to review and take each individual through a full process. Saying this to that team in my first meeting with them would likely have had no impact. It’s the process that was in place and it’s the way things have been typically done. My concern was that the timescales here, however, were way outside other business area norms and it could create an incredibly poor candidate experience if it were to run its course. This practice was also misaligned with the team’s goals of hiring quality, quickly, and strategically. Linking the insight to the business goal moved this away from being a metric for the sake of metrics, to a metric that would have a direct impact on not only the hiring team reaching its goal in a timely manner, but also in providing a better candidate experience overall.
Presenting Data Insights and Solving Problems Together
The data points I compiled were very thorough. They showed where the biggest delays in the processes were, and identified where the snags were in different parts of the process (e.g. shortlist review, interview feedback, interview availability, etc.) So I had data, I analysed the data and came up with some actionable insights—now it was time to present that to the team.
I would have simply said “Here’s the talent recruitment process data. It shows this process is slow and it should be fixed,” which puts the onus of correcting the problems on the talent recruitment teams. Instead of going that route, I presented the teams the data, highlighting the delays, and suggesting the area(s) to potentially tweak as part of fine-tuning this process. My recommendations were made with a view toward working together to solve this problem, and providing suggestions that would enable the team to work together to speed up the process, which is, you guessed it—an instance of actionable insights from data.
The team responded to this approach in a very positive manner, and they actually went all in on assisting with the process improvements. Within a week, we went from a process requiring an anticipated 57 days to one requiring just over 33 days—and that was with limited improvements.
The best part of the situation is what that means for the future—and it’s completely attributable to the fact that I work with such a great team. Now that we are collectively aware of what the process looks like and what the original data showed, as well as how we were able to shorten that time period together, they want to improve it further. Now that different factions of the hiring team understand where they are each accountable during this process, we’ve experienced a behavioural shift, which is the best possible result. As a result, we’ve reduced our time this process requires to under the 23-day mark, on average, which has more than cut the original time to process a new hire in half. As you can see, when you set out to explore how you can derive actionable insights from your talent recruitment process data, exciting things can happen.
Data Insights Alone Can’t Effect Change—But People Can
Data and the insights you can glean from it can be very exciting. But there’s a level of subjectivity when it comes to the relevance of insights, and it’s critically important to not only know what kind of insights to deliver, but also understand the nuances of to whom it’s best to deliver those insights, as well as when the timing is right to do that.
While what I discovered in this particular instance of data collection and analysis was certainly relevant, in order to have any real value, or at least actionable value, these insights had to be presented in the right manner, to the right decision makers on the team, at the right time. Here, I was fortunate, and that’s not surprising—the company I work for is known for hiring some of the best and the brightest minds in the business, for the HR team as well as throughout the company. In this case, the decision makers on the team were very receptive to the insights I had gained from the data, were eager to take responsibility, and were excited about working together to effect change.
Forbes contributor Brent Dykes summed this up nicely when he said “While the increased actionability of an insight doesn’t guarantee its adoption or application, it should motivate more individuals within your company to think more deeply about the data and encourage them to act on a more consistent basis. Make sure your hard-earned insights are as actionable as possible so they’re primed to drive value for your organization.”
I hope this provides some insight as to what I mean when I say that learning how to derive actionable insights from your talent recruitment process can change everything about the success you have with your recruitment efforts.
I’m hoping to hear similar stories from industry colleagues. How are you using data as part of your talent recruitment processes and HR operations? If you have any hints, tips, or useful tool-kits, I’m always open to exploring new ideas.
To finish up, as author Richard Bach said, “Any powerful idea is absolutely fascinating and absolutely useless until we choose to use it.”
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.
Steven Williams is a Talent Acquisition Specialist from the UK who partners with key stakeholders, directors, and business areas to grow their teams within technical, analytical, and financial markets by maximizing the use of data analytics within the talent recruitment process, and by harnessing human-to-human communication directly with the candidate market and hiring team early on within the talent funnel. After spending nearly a decade working in recruitment consultancies and in-house teams, Steven now works for the UK’s largest integrated pure play digital retailer and financial services provider, Shop Direct, the home of Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, which turns over £1.9 billion.