Is Predictive Analysis the Future of Human Resources?

Posted on January 23, 2014 by Rob Hernandez in Business Intelligence, Human Capital Management

When it comes to hindsight, we all have 20/20.

Had I known in 2005 that my boss was going to become the worst manager of all time, I would never have convinced myself that working for him was a smarter career move than taking a job at Apple. Boy was I wrong.

Could you imagine a crystal ball in HR’s office, where we can identify future stars and spot rotten managers before they inflict too much damage? Let’s supersize that thought and forecast significant fluctuations in performance across the entire workforce. This would definitely reinforce Human Resources as a strategic partner for your company’s success.

Although there’s no crystal ball, something else comes pretty close. HR predictive analytics empowers a company to better anticipate and prepare for what’s to come the same way we can prepare for a rainy day or avoid rush hour traffic. With predictive analytics, HR could better foresee a swell of employee exits ahead of time and pre-empt the exits with a recruitment push and keep productivity from dipping.

Early use for HR predictive analytics is to collect employee demographics, performance data and social timelines. Ignoring the ethical and legal discussion on monitoring employee social timelines outside the boundaries of the office, the million dollar question is, how can all this data predict anything?

Recruiters are early adopters of predictive analysis methods. In practice, they first find and measure qualified talent (experience and skills) on professional networks like LinkedIn. Second they assess personal brand and credibility (digging for anything embarrassing) on social sites like Facebook. By overlapping the two data sets, recruiters can single out the most qualified and reliable candidates.

But before we jump on twitter and declare “Predictive Analysis is the next big thing in HR Software,” there’s one detail in the recruiters work flow that cannot be ignored: the recruiter him/herself. Finding the best people is largely dependent on the recruiter’s ability to immerse him/herself and understand candidates. Being intimate with people data is not the function of an algorithm, it’s a hands on approach.

Will HR predictive analytics work?

We often forget that the “H” in HR stands for Human. Technology will continuously provide us with big data, help us visualize past trends and even identify anomalies, but it will not replace human intuition, gut feelings and emotion anytime soon. Business will still require humans to be a part of the workflow and anticipate tomorrow’s issues and capitalize on upcoming opportunities.

The opposite is true for my least favorite manager. Predictive analytics would have defused the charm and charisma of a big name in design and evened the playing field with more qualified candidates. For this alone, I’m optimistic that 2014 will be exciting for HR technology.

You can follow Rob on Twitter at @RobhernandezTN