Recruitment And The Big Data Revolution

I was lucky enough to interview advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi’s Deputy Chairman, Richard Hytner, last year and meet its CEO Kevin Roberts. Both men are impressive and say the success of the company is down to keeping it fresh and constantly buzzing with new ideas. Kevin is proud to proclaim to the world that the company has a 30% employee turnover rate; this comes at price that for most businesses would simply not be sustainable.

The cost of recruitment – even in a world of economic recovery – is becoming a major concern to companies in the fight to recruit and retain top talent. The employment market is currently faced with millions of job vacancies, alongside continuous high unemployment, which you would think was a good thing. However, there is currently a huge miss match between the skills employers need and the skills unemployed job seekers possess, known as the dreaded ‘skills gap’.

HR managers are increasingly discovering that in an effort to play the long game, it now takes longer to fill positions while they wait for a candidate with the perfect skills set. Result? Additional pressure on those carrying the vacancy with the danger they will become disgruntled and move on, or loss of productivity which in turn means a loss of revenue. To combat this, companies are relying even more on outsourcing recruitment (RPO) in the search for high quality talent, especially in the niche markets, and there is no doubt that understanding how to manage, support and maintain a strong relationship with a RPO provider, is the key to delivering the best recruitment results.

Over the last few years, there has been a reinvention of some very traditional processes in HR departments as companies begin to embrace smarter sourcing, such as mobile recruiting, social media recruiting and more recently big data recruiting. However, while it is possible for HR specialists to train and manage mobile and social recruiting in-house, big data solutions are another matter; these rely heavily on data science skills not currently found in HR departments.

Back in 2012, Harvard Business Review named Data Scientist ‘The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century’ anticipating the need for these highly specialised roles crossing all sectors of industry. As the term ‘big data recruitment’ begins to permeate the traditional walls of human resources, alongside ‘social’ and ‘mobile’ recruiting, hiring managers have begun to use these techniques to complement their current hiring practices. Even though companies do not fully understand what big data recruitment actually involves, those who have tried and tested this method are highly enamoured with the fact that it works, delighted with its time and cost saving benefits and ability to attract the best candidates.

For those companies who need time to train and develop their HR digital specialists, RPOs are a useful fall back. For big data solutions – effectively a ‘digital cheat-sheet’ for recruiters – RPO is the only option at present. The future may well consist of combining HR skills with those of the data scientists, but here again the skills shortage issue raises its ugly head as Dean Yi Deng of the College of Computing and Informatics, University of North Carolina, predicted back in 2012:

“We are facing a huge deficit in people to not only handle big data, but more importantly to have the knowledge and skills to generate value from data — dealing with the non-stop tsunami.”

As a result, this year the university has proposed the introduction of Professional Science Master’s in Data Science, Business Analytics and Informatics, integrating big data and analytics with business process and management concepts. Prior to this, while defining what the term actually meant, computer degrees had focused on the systems; now it is focusing on the data and the marrying of these components together.

There are no such plans in the UK to introduce such a specialised degree as yet and with the average high-end computer science degrees requiring A*AA, at A-Level, with the A* in Mathematics or Further Mathematics*, and the UK currently a poor 26th in latest PISA Survey, the idea of bringing in mathematics teachers from China (currently in number one position) to raise standards, can only be a good thing.

* Cambridge University requires three A*s plus STEP Mathematics for Computer Science with Mathematics and currently has six applicants for every place.

 Photo: Richard Hytner by kind courtesy of Sefton Samuels

Further Information and Reading

RPO Recruitment Process Outsource
Where an employer outsources or transfers all or part of its recruitment activities to an external service provider.

Global Trends in RPO & Talent Recruitment 2014
Report based on the views of senior hiring managers from small, medium and large organisations from the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa and the Asia Pacific region. It covers key decisions that will impact businesses; particularly focusing on their workforce needs and the challenges they face in attracting and retaining talent in an uncertain economic environment. It also reveals the latest developments in the area of recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) and where businesses are headed in adopting innovative solutions to the growing challenge of skills shortages. Slideshow gives an excellent overview of the report.

PISA 2012
This is the programme’s fifth survey. It assessed the competencies of 15-year olds in reading, mathematics and science (with a focus on mathematics) in 65 countries and economies. The UK is ranked 23rd for reading, 26th for mathematics and 20th for science.

Big Data: The Management Revolution by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson [VIDEO]

Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century Thomas H Davenport and D J Patil (pdf)

Making Advanced Analytics Work for You Dominic Barton and David Court

Mike Sandiford
Head of Partnerships
0207 193 9931

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