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The last few months, maybe even the last year, I had forgotten all about this. But it just flooded over me again and washed me clean of all the jargon around big data, analytics and so on.

What use does data and evidence from all kinds of places have to help us make decisions? Is it better? Do we do it because we will make more money? Gain more efficiency? Get more clients? Well – those are by products of good decisions, but those are not the reasons we use data. Nope, not at all.

Data and its analysis allows us to quickly step back and ask the one question that data can’t ask – WHY?

Why do you want to work here?
Why do want to bring ideas here?
Why do you want your family to be proud of what you do?
Why do you want to get up early and be eager to go?
Why are you going to change everything?
Why should we let you into our cool club of people?
Why will you make my team better?

So how often do we ask those questions of our incoming talent? Probably not enough. Are we afraid to ask? Or is the reason simpler than fear….

Maybe it’s because we need to spend time gathering all the other evidence on what and how that we feel we don’t have time to ask “why”.

As talent folk, we consult the most on the why. We spend lots of time gathering the how and what. And the how and what is rooted in data. It’s found in data. It’s proven with data.

But the why needs to be asked. I have seen all kinds of amazing data stuff – but none of it supplants the simple question of WHY

Let’s think about that for a second. So why do people do whatever they do? Do they do it for money? For free food at work? For perks? For recognition? Maybe…but ultimately they do it because they believe that’s it’s a good thing.

They do…
To create next great engineering feat.
To find the next cure.
To educate our kids better.
Built a better mousetrap.
Stop hunger.
Stand on a new planet.
Create new energy.
Or something awesome, fun, cool or makes them feel good

That’s WHY we do. And that’s what we need our interviews to be about. Why this brand? Why our company? Why does your drive going to change our company?

People LOVE to make stuff WORK. Not as sure they like to make stuff JOB. It’s not about the job – it’s about the work.

Back to the data – the evidence on what people do and how they do it is all around us. It sits in systems and discussions and can be plotted and proven using all kinds of data techniques. We actually can use evidence from systems and data to reveal the what and how.

But we still need to ask “why”. And that is where recruiting is going. And that is why assessments haven’t replaced recruiters or interviews. And they won’t. They will offer data points and insight, but not the WHY. Even if you ask questions around the why, we want to hear it as humans.

You ever see somebody light up when you ask them WHY? When they have passion, you can see it in their face and body language. The tone of their voice changes. They get personal and human. They smile. A great recruiter can even know when a person is smiling on the phone – and they certainly know when they are not 🙂

So WHY would we ever stop that? Let’s get the data we need spend less time asking about what and how, and spend more time on the WHY.

It will improve our decisions. The candidate experience. The hiring manager experience. All experiences. Treat people as individuals, not applications in a pile.

Happy Friday.

If I say hashtag one more time, it will be too soon. One video with Jimmy and Justin and one great visit to Vegas made the hashtag part of my vocabulary.

I used the hashtag in regards to the big data summit that I was leading along with David Bernstein and Dan Hanyzewski, and we kept on saying “#takeaway”

I was intrigued though on some of the #takeaways I got regarding big data, recruiting and HR. Below are some, as well as some ideas on how you can advance those takeaways at the office (listed in italics).

1. Big data needs to presented with cases and uses, no more theory.. Wow. During our preso to the main group on Thursday I think we had a mix of people leaning in, people freaked out and people falling asleep. That will be the last time I present anything regarding theory unless I have four hours, like we did during the summit. People need hard examples of how it’s being used, and how it improved either dollars or recruiter impact. Name anything you are doing with data and tell how it’s saving hard time or hard money. Make it that statement no bigger than 140 characters and tweet it.

2. If your team is weak, shame on you leader. That was an awesome conversation I was privy to. Love how people kept saying “I can’t get my team to” or “my managers won’t let me” and how people’s response was basically “shame on you”. Name something you are doing to overcome gaps in your team actively and report out on it to your boss.

3. Innovation in process is on the rise again. Recruiting part time returning moms, focusing on boomerangs in weird ways, busing people in to the company to retain them and engaging our military in several ways all made sense. Sure there was tweet this and social media that, but the business processes and inventive ideas really resonated with me because of their innovation. Name 3 things you are doing in your processes that are innovative, and take those to a business leader and see if they agree. Rinse and repeat until you get a yes.

4. The battle between agency and corp HR is alive and well. Great moderation by my doppelgänger Chris Murdock – not the other way around thank you very much 🙂 Access to the hiring manager, how to engage, and who is a better recruiter (internal or external) is alive and well. We all sat around the campfire later and had s’mores, but the controversy on what role agencies play is alive and well. Outline how you are enabling a great partnership between agency/RPO, corp HR and the hiring manager, and get all three to agree.

Only a few good connects and a few takeaways get you the ROI to go to any conference. This month I was at 3 conferences. All were worth it. I made sure that I made really strong connections at each and planted the seed for relationships with a handful of others. I also tried to spend time with people I hadn’t seen in a while, and takeaway three or four ideas that I could leverage for my team, my business, my clients and myself. And I did.

I knew that three things were not going to be at this or any conference:
1 blank check
2 secret sauce and
3 silver bullets

So I didn’t look for them. Instead I went away with new worthwhile contacts, advancing projects, and new ideas – and that’s always welcome.

Today I was on a call and I broke a critical rule of good decision making….listen for the data, not your agenda.

What a mistake. It’s easy to make. You are listening for evidence that helps your pre-conceived notions or your preliminary thoughts about, well anything. How to proceed, avoid pitfalls, be successful – whatever.

Instead, just listen. Take it in. Let your mind process the data and evidence. Let it spin for more than 5 seconds. You may not have 5 min, but we typically have 5 seconds. You have to give 5 seconds.

Don’t look for YOUR evidence in data, discussion or reading. Just let the data present itself.

Put down your own agenda and then challenge it in your head. Pause. Consider.

Using evidence to make decisions is a process. Let it work. We make tons of decisions based on intuition or gut. But know when that’s okay or low risk. If you go into a meeting knowing that evidence or data is being presented, leave your agenda at the door.

Otherwise, you just end up make ill-informed statements or even worse ill-informed decisions – and those you will really regret.

As I leave one conference (LinkedIn) and go to another (Recruiting Trends) this is solid thinking. Time to check my agenda (and ego) at the door and let the data present itself.

My initial impression of HR tech was pretty simple – blurred lines.

The lines between enterprise resource planning, business process, and human capital management software have been completely blurred. Companies like Workday, SuccessFactors, and Infor are rapidly bringing business and finance into human capital and really making it harder for the organizations that only focus on recruiting, on boarding, performance management and so on to keep market share.

On the opposite side, there are a multitude of vendors that have specific technology needs that need corporations need to be filled. Online interviews, video, screening capability, assessments, scheduling, logging hours, mobile, social media, and so on. They all integrate with different systems and media.

And then of course, there is everything in between. Recruiting, learning, performance management, etc. all combined into elaborate suites that are mobile ready, socially ready and highly flexible, all on the cloud. All ready to infuse with one system or another.

I will admit that even I was a little blurry looking at it all and trying to get an understanding of how to even write this blog and keep it short. Too late.

What makes it even harder is how many outsource providers are in the mix at HR Tech who are combining services with tech. We have achieved outsourcing human capital to technology with absolute precision. My favorite is how the response from an outsource provider that has tech is always “but we don’t have to turn on the whole suite. We can do whatever you want with as much or as little as you want”. Nice. Talk about blurring the lines.

But what wasn’t there was a paradigm shift. Sorry tech vendors, I didn’t see it.

I think we are still in our infancy of understanding how to merge data across functional areas and HR, and link it to business outcomes – and letting HR lead that charge. So I have high hopes for next year where many of these companies have clients with more than 1 or 2 fiscals under their belt post integration and full adoption. So here is the warning vendors – bring it.

I was disappointed with the software choices for HRO. Not to hype our own stuff, but HRO has 100 to 200 systems it’s managing when working with its clients – maybe more, and I didn’t see much to address that except for “convert to us”. Vendors are talking about big data, but HRO is about “complex” data, not really big data. Lots of room for improvement there.

Highlights? Bill’s goodbye, Elaine Orler of the Talent Function group preaching about how to pick tech, the candidate experience awards and the back room conversations about what really happens with vendors. But it’s a must go show. Next year we will meet with the analysts and show them what big complex data in HR is all about. I will admit that I met more ppl there in talent acquisition and management than I did at any other show this year – and they were all tuned to tech.

Like I said, eager for next year to see how adoption and post integration yields long term results. Curious to see who headlines next year.

As much of a data guy as I am, I’m a big fan of subject matter expertise being behind the data. Looking at it, and making correlations and pointing out trans that lead to better business outcomes and processes.

The data itself does not tell a story. The data needs to be read, and then a story needs to be developed. Candidate experience awards and it’s survey collect dozens of pieces of information in an objective way from candidates and employers. But it also collects the methodology and the business processes that a company uses during the recruiting process to better understand the candidate experience.

And that’s the point. You need to understand the intended business outcomes to see if the data that you’re collecting helps address the actual business processes.

The candidate experience awards are doing the right thing. The gathering objective data and then also methodology to help link business process, business outcomes, and data.

My thanks goes out to all the members of the candidate experience judging panel, many of which I know personally, who will be bringing to bear their subject matter expertise on who is executing strong candidate experience in the recruiting process.

Below is a link to the press release announcing the judges, and profiles on each of the judges is included.

http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/Candidate-Experience-Awards-2013-Judges-Announced-1836799.htm

Big data maybe for HR, but it’s certainly for HRO. Well I certainly think so. Aspen isn’t playing in that space for giggles.

But why? Why is HRO different than corporate HR? What makes it special from a data perspective?

Let’s go to the 4 Vs of big data:
Volume – 12 systems vs 240 systems (or more). HR services for a 100,000 person company vs 20 100,000 person companies

Variety – 1 or 2 systems vs 40. 1 vocabulary vs 40. 1 or 2 processes vs 40.

Velocity – arguably the same actually, it’s still outsourcing 🙂

Veracity – bad data in corp HR would be across a handful of systems and means “fix it” vs bad data is your fault, you are fired, or we are losing profit

But the 4 Vs only set the stage. Three things stick out more to me that are much more powerful:

1) HRO will have less margin of error when using predictive analytics and

2) their data economy of scale will dwarf anything else when it comes to human capital and

3) each transaction can be leveraged for all accounts, and their clients are paying them for storage of information – it’s the perfect big data business

Lets look at RPO. Bakers dozen list was just released, so let’s start there. If we stick with this list, most clients either let one of these firms use their ATS or the RPO provides. In most cases, the RPO is managing a different ATS from one account to another (but not always).

Doesn’t sound much different than a large multinational corp HR. Until you multiply the problem by 50. RPOs could be managing data from not just 50 ATSs, but data from different CRMs, client side HRIS and finance systems. A company with 25 RPO accounts, bakers dozen size, could be managing data from easily 100 source systems.

RPO is the only place in recruiting with enough volume of data to actually make predictive analytics in recruiting work. By combining data from all those systems, they greatly reduce margin of error in analyzing all kinds of demographics. Their data is just so much bigger and diverse. They can use data to buy SEO better. Know when to kill projects or campaigns within hours or minutes. Know which processes are the most efficient in different environments and not be guessing. The margin of errorr is so small when you combine all these systems and data sets together (assuming the analytics are clean), that whatever the data says, basically goes.

They just have a “data economy of scale” that can’t be beat. Google may have all kinds of applicants, as does Wal-Mart, but what’s wild is that both companies operate in a single environment, not 50. Or 50 cultures, or 200000 hiring managers, or every country, or postal code.

Which brings me to redundancy. You know what RPOs never create? Candidates. They don’t grow them in a secret lab – they inventory them. And candidates don’t change jobs that often. So as a RPO holds onto and combines data from across its accounts, don’t you think they cut down on sourcing? Of course they do. Do you know how much data there is in searchable and categorized documents across 50 accounts for 5 years? Pedabtyes of data. That’s 1000 terabytes (or 1 million GB).

I think really large RPOs need to start selling their data to companies as a revenue stream. Why buy resumes from monster or linkedin when you can buy them already vetted from a RPO? Why not? What a great use of money…buy 1,000,000 people that were already assessed so you don’t have too. The technology is available right now (wink wink).

I will admit – I’m a kind of amped up about what’s about to happen to recruiting. RPOs are going to have a significant advantage over an individual company that is undeniable. The cost savings will be immense, and the profitability for RPO is going to rise dramatically.

It’s a great opportunity for corporate recruiting to change. Take on more responsibility.

Lets see what 2014 brings…RPO is probably first in HRO. Then maybe contingent workforces. But both are heading towards big data.

Keep watching your HRO vendors. Ask the questions about what they are doing to leverage data for you. Ask them what their plans are. Ask about their technology roadmap. Have them prepare the 3 year outlook of technology and analytics at their business if you are negotiating a 3 year deal. Ask about their data infrastructure and how it protects and enables you.

Headed to HR tech next week. This will be a topic for sure (big data) and I am curious to see what the vendors say when I approach them directly.

Fall is here, and I am eager for October baseball. Phillies won’t be there but there is always next year.

Stats on each player will be on display. Every at bat there will be a review of the player stats for the playoffs and for the season, with Joe Buck rattling off the stats and Tim McCarver saying something that bothers me.

It’s the business card of baseball. Name, team, position AND stats. One always follows the other. Makes me wonder why we don’t have stats in the back of our business cards.

Imagine that. People see your average, scores and so on. They see that you were rookie of the year. That you have been with 2 teams in 10 years.

That’s crazy right? Well maybe – but certainly not impossible. Put a pic on the front, title, company – jersey is optional. On the back, list your team you played for each year, a rating (grades, tests, 360, performance, or customer satisfaction), stack years into rows, a fun fact or two and maybe your salary. Yep – I went there with compensation. Why not?

If you flipped over somebody’s card and saw their ranking for the last 7 years as X, an estimate of earnings, and they were on Z teams, you make assumptions on their talent right away.

Growing up my friends and I traded cards and bubble gum in the basement. Arguing on how one player wasn’t worth the same as another because of his stats – always looking at the stats. Maybe that’s too easy…maybe.

Fun idea – have to get a mustache though. Enjoy fall ball 🙂

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