(“Originally published on SIA Staffing Stream, April 07, 2015.”)
For the past few years, everyone has been talking about “Big Data.” Articles speak of the promise of analyzing data to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. Companies have established enterprise analytics teams, and human resources functions have created metrics teams to perform “talent analysis.” How much of this effort is focused on creating the optimal contingent workforce? To answer that question, we need to examine the purpose of Big Data analysis.
Simply put, big data analysis is the process of integrating and analyzing internal metrics, external benchmarks, social media data, and government data to deliver a more informed solution to business challenges. So, the right starting point when answering our question is to identify those challenges, and determine what it is that we need to know.
As spend on contingent workforce in the US crosses the $100 billion mark, companies want to validate their use of contingent workers, optimize their use, and understand where they best fit into their organization’s plans. This third objective is new – only recently have companies begun to view contingent workers as strategic. As objectives change, so do the questions that are asked, and the data needed to answer those questions. In the past, the objective was to find satisfactory temporary workers at the lowest possible price point and minimal risk. The question usually asked was, “What happened?” In response, companies employed Vendor Management Systems with reporting capabilities that provide “rear view mirror” statistics on positions filled, time required to fill positions, attrition levels, and pay and bill rates.
Now, in order to understand how to strategically use non-employees to promote business interests, the questions shift to “Why did it happen?” and “How do we control what happens next?” To answer these questions, a comprehensive, ‘Big Data’ view is needed.
Let us discuss the data that needs to be tracked and catalogue the ways in which it can be analyzed:
The need to attract and hire the best talent is critical to business success. That has always been true. This makes it imperative for businesses to gain clear insight into their entire workforce – permanent and non-employees alike. But insights gained through Big Data is only the first step. Remember that data is necessary, but not sufficient, to enact change. Big Data only helps when executives can translate insights into initiatives that drives business performance.
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