How to use talent analytics to optimise your workforce
Robin Sanders

4 minutes

How to use talent analytics to optimise your workforce

Talent analytics is a hot topic in HR right now. As more businesses gather data insights to optimise their workforce and attract, engage and retain high-performing talent, knowing how to maximise potential will prove crucial in the coming years — particularly in an increasingly competitive jobs market.

By 2030, the global talent shortage could reach 85.2 million people — costing companies trillions of dollars in lost economic opportunity. Unemployment statistics suggest that solving the problem isn’t going to get any cheaper. For HR departments, who are already under increasing amounts of pressure, the future (at least on the surface) looks bleak.

Though technological advancements might be a major contributor to the tightening talent market, for HR leaders, it may also form part of the solution.

Talent analytics — the application of analytics software to produce data insights into the workforce — has been around for almost a decade. However, it’s only in recent years that we’re starting to understand its full potential.

With the ability to assess the current workforce, iron out overspend, identify non-productive workers, and predict what positions a business is likely to need to hire for in the future (and how much they’re likely to cost), talent analytics is essential for HR leaders who want to future-proof their workforce in an age of ever-increasing disruption.

Continuous feedback: the benefits of effective talent analytics

Most leaders accept that success in business hinges on building and maintaining a quality, happy and engaged workforce. When employees are given the tools and support to thrive, performance and productivity naturally increase.

To ascertain how talent analytics can help drive performance, a global quick-service restaurant chain focused its application on frontline staff. As reported by McKinsey, after only four months of piloting talent analytics, customer satisfaction scores increased by over 100%, speed of service improved by 30 seconds, and the attrition rate for new joiners decreased substantially. Better still, company sales were up by 5%.

Little wonder that some big-name players have turned to data analytics to solve unique problems. Twitter, for example, sent out various open-ended surveys to gauge how employees were feeling. Once the results were in, the company deployed ‘sentiment-analysis software’ to identify patterns that could then be used to boost morale and productivity.

To combat “flight risk” (in this case, the high chance of an employee leaving the business), Experian built a predictive model that measured attributes such as team size/structure and commute time. By being able to predict the likelihood of someone leaving (and combining these insights with improved management practices), the organisation reduced attrition by 4% over two years, with an estimated saving of $14 million.

Finally, and perhaps most impressively, IBM responded to high turnover in certain business-critical roles by investing in workforce analytics.

Harnessing the machine-learning capabilities of its Watson supercomputer, IBM built an algorithm which examined various data points such as the hiring process, employee tenure, promotion history, performance, job role, salary, and location. Over four years, the investment yielded $300 million in reduced retention costs, while turnover for critical roles has fallen by 25% and productivity has also seen an uptick.

Such success in using tech to optimise human capital is far from a fluke.

Indeed, the mile-wide, inch-deep insights gleaned from applied analytics drastically reduces the need for businesses to blindly put faith in ad hoc processes — processes which, in most cases, are destined to fail.

Adopting talent analytics software brings a number of benefits for businesses of all sizes, in all sectors. When deployed in an effective manner, analytics software can:

  • Offer better insights into candidates. By looking at CVs and other information provided by candidates during the hiring process, talent analytics enables hiring managers to draw up a data-driven shortlist of the most suitable candidates — free from human bias.
  • Collect continuous feedback on the current workforce. This aspect of talent analytics is pivotal to workforce optimisation. Ongoing, real-time feedback on existing employees can identify skills gaps, flag up unproductive areas of the business that could potentially be cut, and recognise the high performers who must be retained at all costs. Keeping track of these insights can improve decision-making on who to promote, who to upskill, and who to let go.
  • Analyse which workers are on the wrong contract types. Data insights may suggest that it makes more sense to hire a permanent hire over a contractor for a particular role, or vice-versa depending on the individual situation.
  • Apply predictive analytics. The insights gathered from a predictive model give businesses the ability to assess when and where they need to hire future talent — enabling HR departments to build a long-term strategic workforce plan.
  • Ensure maximum productivity and boost employee retention. The benefits listed above provide leadership with the business intelligence to implement company-wide measures that combat the key challenges facing HR departments, namely unproductive workforces and high attrition rates.
  • Provide market intelligence on how competitive talent markets are. By looking at criteria such as business size, location and sector, talent analytics can inform customers how competitive specific job roles are. Being able to call on easily accessible data makes recruitment a far more robust process — reducing time-to-hire, improving talent pools and saving a company time and money.

How to make talent analytics work for your business

According to a Deloitte report, 4 in 5 large companies believe talent analytics and HR to be “important” or “urgent.”

As with the rollout of any new company-wide technology, however, successful talent analytics depends on two mutually dependent factors: buy-in from the senior leadership team and a strategic approach to talent management.

Without strategic oversight, talent analytics amounts to an expensive waste of time. According to Gartner data, only 21% of HR leaders believe their organisations are effectively using talent data to inform decisions.

The reason could be this: accessing and utilising talent analytics isn’t a simple process, particularly when HR departments are under increasing pressure to perform three jobs simultaneously. So what’s the solution?

For many large organisations, workforce solutions could provide the answer. With in-house teams dedicated to gathering and analysing data to provide actionable business intelligence for customers, these solutions take the stress away from talent management.

At Guidant Global, for example, we use different talent analytics platforms to provide intelligence at every level. To assess current workforces and predict future hiring needs, based on internal and external data, we utilise Talent Data Exchange (TDX). For intelligent talent market reports, we harness the power of LinkedIn Talent Insights — providing reports to clients whenever they need them.

With these on board as part of MSP, RPO  and SOW management solutions, we’re able to provide comprehensive talent analytics for our customers. Of course, an HR department could do this work themselves. But the time it takes requires significant technical skills and an increased headcount — both of which are sorely lacking, even as we enter the 2020s.

For HR leaders and, indeed, procurement professionals, leaning on their workforce solutions provider to manage their talent analytics may be the most logical answer.


That talent analytics is on the rise in HR is indisputable. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends report, 71% of companies see talent analytics as a high priority. Meanwhile, LinkedIn data suggested that there has been a threefold increase in HR professionals listing analytics skills and keywords on their profiles in the last five years.

We live in an interconnected, data-driven world, and HR has to reflect this. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution well underway, the Gig Economy growing, and talent shortages existing in almost every sector, businesses have no choice but to prepare for widespread change.

To face the future head-on, an organisation’s HR strategies and decision-making must be informed by rigorous data. As we have seen, wedding predictive talent analytics to a workforce planning strategy can foster business integration, preempt any potential issues before they arise, and give people the opportunity to proactively deploy effective solutions for positive outcomes.

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