How to think like a freak in Talent Acquisition

FreakonomicsIf you are looking for an interesting read, Freakonomics is a tremendous book written by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (first of three) on how to look at information and data in a different light, not just the conventional way, to solve problems. As I’m reading their third book, “how to think like a freak”, it struck me odd that in the world of global Talent Acquisition where acquiring and retaining global talent is most critical to business strategy execution, there has been very little attention to looking at different angles talent data can improve outcomes.

As a bit of a backdrop, the Big Data vernacular became mainstream four to five years ago, and although everyone is talking about Big Data in relation to better understanding customers (capturing, synthesizing, and extrapolating conclusions from vasts amount of data coming from multiple sources), the need for understanding talent trends in talent acquisition hasn’t changed too much over the last 40 years. It is still a very straightforward process of sourcing, recruiting, interviewing and onbaording with newer technological tools, however the production of an overwhelming cache of data impacts hiring efficiencies.
The problem of mounds of data still persists, as there isn’t enough time in a day to process efficiently and interpret correctly to make actionable decisions for the business.

What I enjoyed about Freakenomics is how four key pillars are the foundation to better understand how to approach information when solving problems.
• Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life
• Knowing what to measure and how to measure it can make a complicated world less so
• Conventional wisdom is often wrong
• Correlation does not equal causality

When applying the bottom three to recruitment, there are a couple of good examples that comes to mind. First, how many 11172013atimes over the last few years have internal customers commented they don’t understand why recruitment can’t find talent when the unemployment rate is 8%, 7% or 6%? Their belief is that conventional wisdom says the unemployment rate is a direct correlation to level of difficulty in attracting talent. But when you dig into the numbers for highly skilled workers, you’ll find unemployment for a four year degreed workforce in the US was 3.3% in April 2014! Big difference that has much deeper impact and can be helpful in educating your customer to find creative ways to solve the problem.

01142014aAnother example would be time to fill/hire. Conventional wisdom within recruitment uses time to fill as a metric most reflective to service level for the business. However in reality, the only control recruitment actually owns is speed to source, speed to recruit (sell/screen/assess) and sometimes, speed to onboard (from verbal acceptance to signed acceptance). Hiring authorities own the interview process, including coordinating interview schedules in between travel, vacations, and holidays. Performing the interviews, assessments, etc.. Plus providing feedback on the candidates before, during, and after the interview. So why do organizations only track/measure time to fill instead of time to present candidates, or time to final interview, or any other breakdown a company may want to measure? The reason…. because the vast majority of Applicant Tracking Systems (at press, we haven’t seen one) don’t offer it.

To think like a freak means whenever you hear data that supports a rationale or decision, look behind the numbers. Try to understand if what is being measured are the right measurements to achieve the best outcomes. Determine if data supporting a conclusion is a true cause and effect or if it is only a correlation and needs more investigation. Finally, if you want to get to the truth faster in order to solve real problems and make a difference, then have the courage to question conventional wisdom.

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