'Big Data Deluge' Leaving HR Unclear on How Talent Data Can Enhance Business Results

Against a backdrop of a considerable number of uncertain factors around the global economic environment, stemming from the recession in the Eurozone as well as the slow and unsteady growth momentum in the US, the economic outlook in Asia is likely to see fluctuations.


According to economic data from the Hong Kong government, the pace of job creation slowed marginally to 1.9%, and moderated further to 1.3% year-on-year for private sector establishments, the slowest since September 2009, reflecting the conscious intention for organisations to reduce costs while driving performance and improving efficiency. However, as many as three out of four HR professionals have no visibility of workforce potential.


SHL, a specialists in talent measurement and part of CEB, has found that 77% of HR professionals worldwide do not know how workforce potential is affecting their company's bottom line and less than half of organisations surveyed use objective talent data to drive business decisions. The study of nearly 600 HR professionals worldwide suggests that HR is overwhelmed by the volume of employee data and struggles to elicit meaningful insight that will help drive businesses forward and deliver results. These findings are revealed in SHL's annual Global Assessment Trends Report 2013.


With organisations focused on restructuring, cost-cutting and growing the top line in tough markets, HR's 2013 priorities reflect the organisation's need to engage their talent (55% of those surveyed) and cultivate strong leaders (52%) to drive change. The report reveals the other priorities of HR professionals are performance management (49%), and workforce planning/talent analytics (43%); these priorities top the list for both established economies including Hong Kong and emerging economies including China. One major difference is that established markets focus more on succession planning while emerging markets pay more attention to training. HR priorities reflect the contention between balancing short-term employee productivity and performance with longer-term strategy of aligning talent to the needs and vision of the business.


"Our research shows that even though organisations measure employee performance, they have historically focused on efficiency data, like how well an employee is performing versus data that allows them to make a strategic talent decision," said Chris Frost, Managing Director, SHL Hong Kong. "This means key information on talent potential and future capability is overlooked, effectively making targeted programmes that identify the next generation of leaders and nurture talent for critical roles ineffective. This increases succession risk for organisations, putting business performance and continuity in jeopardy."


The challenge of big data
The report also revealed that HR professionals are facing a "big data deluge" with confusion over how to manage talent data to boost company performance. As of 2012, around 2.5 exabytes of data are created each day, which is set to double every 40 months. Two major challenges for HR to overcome are data quality and accessibility, and respondents indicated that there is room for improvement in these areas.


Despite workforce planning and talent analytics being referenced among the top five priorities, less than half of respondents (44%) said their organisations use objective data on employees' competencies and skills to make workforce decisions and only 18% of HR professionals are currently satisfied with the way their organisation manages talent data.  However, according to the upcoming report from CEB, SHL's parent company, organisations that are effective at using talent analytics can boost employee bench strength, performance and retention by up to 19%. 

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