Use ‘Big Data’ to Guide Your Recruiting Decisions

By Toni Vranjes Apr 29, 2014
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SAN DIEGO—“Big data” can be a tremendous resource for recruiting departments, potentially resulting in a wide range of benefits. But recruiters need to be very cautious—and ethical—when using this data.

According to Michael Ganiere, speaker at the spring 2014 ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo, the use of big data can lead to increased efficiency, better quality hires and other improvements. But it’s crucial to use metrics properly and to know which ones tell the whole story.

In the big picture, talent acquisition goals should align with the company’s business needs, said Ganiere, who manages talent acquisition in North America for conglomerate Johnson Controls. Metrics should inform the company of its progression to those goals, he added.

Improving the Recruiting Process

For Ganiere, the challenge is analyzing massive amounts of data in an extremely complex company. Johnson Controls has 170,000 employees worldwide and $43 billion in revenues. It has several business lines: making heating and air-conditioning equipment, manufacturing car batteries and car interiors, and managing commercial office space.

The data analysis has helped the company improve its recruiting processes in various ways, according to Ganiere.

One aim was reducing the time it takes to fill job openings. Using data from its applicant tracking system, the company examined all eight steps in the recruiting process. It saw much room for improvement in three of those steps: sourcing talent, preliminary screening and phone screening.

Using that information, the company streamlined those steps. To improve sourcing, it created talent pipelines for critical roles. After developing a pipeline for manufacturing supervisors, the “time to fill” decreased from 54 days to 37 days.

For preliminary screening, Johnson Controls improved its search capabilities. To make the phone screening process better, the company aimed to complete these screens on the first call to the candidate, instead of scheduling them for later.

Big data also helped the company increase the quality of the salespeople it hired, according to Ganiere. The perception was that the bottom 20 percent of its salespeople were from regional competitors with small training budgets. The company also assumed that the top 20 percent of its salespeople were from national competitors with more training resources.

Data analysis revealed the truth—and it was just the opposite. The reality was that the bottom 20 percent of salespeople came from national competitors, and the top 20 percent were from regional competitors.

So the company changed its strategy, recruiting more from its regional competitors. This resulted in a 26 percent jump in “quality of hire,” according to Ganiere. “We have a lot better result hiring from a regional competitor than a national one,” he said.

Evaluating Recruiters

Companies will measure many different things, but recruiters should be held accountable for only a few of those things, Ganiere emphasized.

When he first started at Johnson Controls nearly five years ago, the company had a scorecard with about 30 different points for which recruiters were responsible. The number was simply overwhelming, and the company decided to refine the system.

For example, although it still measures “time to fill,” the company no longer holds recruiters accountable for that metric because recruiters have no impact on certain parts of this process, he explained. To illustrate the point, he noted that a candidate might wait to give notice to his current employer until passing the Johnson Controls’ background check. Then the candidate might give two weeks’ notice to his employer, followed by a week off before starting the new job.

The company now holds the recruiters accountable for the time until a candidate accepts a job offer.

Using Data Ethically

Which metrics provide a true picture of what’s happening in the recruiting department and which don’t? That’s a question that businesses should consider very carefully.

“You can always find a number to justify whatever your position is,” Ganiere observed.

“You see a lot of this when it comes time for the political seasons,” he added. “There’s always some number that can justify your point.”

When Ganiere first started at the company, one metric the company used for the sourcing team was “dollars saved.” That was calculated by taking the salary of the candidate who was placed and multiplying it by 25 percent.

“That became the amount of the fee that we didn’t pay to an agency,” he said.

The problem is that Ganiere didn’t necessarily plan to spend that money on an agency, so it was difficult for him to call that “savings.”

“It’s not saving money unless you intended to spend it first,” Ganiere said.

Therefore, “dollars saved” by the sourcing team might not provide a true picture, and the company has stopped measuring this.

Toni Vranjes is a freelance business writer in San Pedro, Calif.

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