Over the past thirty years, a great deal of effort has gone into the improvement of recruitment methodologies. During this time, as the world has become more data literate, more and more organizations have turned to mathematically-based candidate assessment techniques to improve employee retention. Currently some 60% of job applicants are required to complete some sort of assessment process. Now, Big Data looks set to play an important role within the recruitment arena.
Recently, companies like Google have started to rely on Big Data to help them recruit high-performing talent. According to an article in Business Insider1, while each company will look for different things and will collect different data, increasingly, management, hiring, and promotions will be more focused on Big Data, rather than people’s opinions and other measures, like academic records and SAT scores. Another article2 describes how Xerox successfully used Big Data to improve employee retention by 15%.
While any move towards a more scientific approach to recruitment is to be welcomed, it is important that the capacity of Big Data as a performance prediction tool should not be over-estimated. During the past thirty plus years developing and deploying evidence-based recruitment technology, I have come to appreciate that to recruit people with the potential to become long-term high performers, it is necessary to develop an adaptive approach that takes into account the changing world in which todays organizations operate.
Ironically, while the digital age has resulted in the availability of more data than ever before, because the world is now so fast-changing, much of this becomes outdated more quickly.
Theres a saying those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. The advent of Big Data, now more than ever, serves to remind us that even in todays digital and fast-changing world, we ignore history at our peril.
While history has great lessons for all of us, there are definite limits to Big Datas capacity as a predictor of the future. For example, almost no economist (including a number of Nobel Prize recipients who rely on Big Data more than most), predicted the 2008 crash. Within the last five years, the U.S. have become 30% less reliant on Middle-East oil and it is now thought that in a few short years it will become an oil and gas exporter who knew?
No one can accurately predict the way the global economy will perform or how the business cycle will change. These days, few organizations can be certain about future markets or the resulting demands that will be placed on their employees. Ask any experienced business manager and they will tell you that no business plan survives its implementation.
The reality is that change is driven through innovation and innovation is, by its very nature, unpredictable. History never truly repeats itself. The future is always different and this places limits on the value of Big Data as a predictive tool.
Our research shows that to succeed in recruitment, it is necessary to build an evidence-based approach in which the efficacy of the methodology is constantly monitored and which adapts with changing circumstances.
Recent claims (albeit not independently verified) that Big Data has been able to make a 15% improvement to employee retention seem perfectly feasible to me, but take a look at the graph below to see what a truly adaptive evidence-based approach to recruitment can do:
This graph relates to the six-year deployment of the Talent Chaser Recruitment and Employee Management Solution within Volunteers of America Delaware Valley (a world leader in the social services field). Based on independently verified data, Days-in-Job figures have improved by a over 100% during the period. An astonishing result that was accomplished through the application of evidence-based performance profiling!
This improvement to talent retention was achieved through a combination of evidence-based methodology and adaptation. No amount of historical data could have driven or predicted such a result.
Please subscribe to our blog to learn more about the concept of Performance Profiling. Im going to be showing you how this technique differs from traditional personality testing (otherwise frequently called psychological or psychometric testing) and how it underpins the evidence-based recruitment methodology within Talent Chaser. I will highlight how the data generated through the deployment of such an approach can be used to create an employee retention program capable of adapting operational processes in ways that will drive continuous improvements to employee retention.
 Business Insider – Max Nisen Apr. 23, 2013.
 Wall Street Journal – Meet the Boss: Big Data September 24th 2012.
 This is actually a misquotation of the original text written by George Santayana, who, in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
 Data statistically analyzed by Dr. Richard Feinberg, Professor of Consumer Science Purdue University.