Can HR Leverage Informed Decisions?

When I come home every night and look at my mail, I throw about 90 percent of it away. Most of it is useless … junk coupons or junk mail asking me to switch my insurance, my cable or credit cards. And every night I wonder about the science behind these marketing campaigns. It is not just a shot in the dark for these companies (not all anyway).

They use reliability metrics and predictive analysis to determine who gets what offer and when. The cost is negligent for most of these companies, but the reward, even at a one percent take rate is worth it to them. The success in the direct mail sales channel is low, and it is getting worse with people moving to electronic, paper free mailings. But the marketers know this, and they adapted long ago.

Now they can target you directly, they can drop offers to you that are actually appealing (see gmail, groupon, amazon bargains, etc.). The data that they have on you is incredible. They can likely predict your patterns for dining out, when you are most likely to go out and where, and oops, like magic, there is a coupon to one of your local restaurants. I once heard a data expert speaking on NPR about how a car rental company realized that people who rented romance movies from Netflix were more likely to rent a car that same weekend for a romantic getaway. And just where do you think the rental car company started to advertise? Simple stuff, once you have the data.

Imagine the possibilities in HR if we learned how to really leverage data for informed decisions. The funny thing is that we have the data. We have loads of it. The problem is, it is all tied up in different, disconnected systems. There is no clear view of the data. It is pretty sloppy, recruiting has its own system, HR Ops uses another one, talent management has a third, learning has a fourth, compensation has a fifth. And in a measure of sheer lunacy, some organizations have a system to manage their systems!

Why? If we had one smart system we would be less like the direct mail campaigners and more like the targeted marketing campaigners. We would be better informed, and we could make smart inferences. We could see who would work well in certain teams, under certain duress and with certain initiatives. Can we reliably predict success?

It will not be fool-proof, it never is, but it will be better than what we are doing today.

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