Talent intelligence is the new buzzword for HR. More specifically, talent intelligence strategies and talent intelligence platforms—what are they, and how do they really help HR? The premise of talent intelligence is that it allows an employer to identify which skills are needed for employees to be successful in specific jobs. Once those skills are identified, employers can match them with their current workforce to identify potential candidates for promotion or further training. They can also use skills matching to identify which prospective employees to hire based on their skill level. The desired outcome is to enable efficient recruitment of new employees and provide more career opportunities for current employees.
Talent intelligence platforms claim to identify adjacent skills. The platform may recognize that someone is a good candidate because they have skills adjacent to what was requested, even if they did not list that particular skill. For example, a C# programmer might be able to quickly adapt to a .NET coding environment because .NET is a framework with C# as the programming language. However, Java is an object-oriented programming language. The Java programmer might not adapt to .NET as easily. Significant investment is being poured into talent intelligence platforms and talent intelligence strategies. Providers are relying heavily on artificial intelligence to identify these adjacent skills to automate the matching process.
There are some significant challenges to making a talent intelligence platform provide a return on investment. People have skills, but their proficiency in those skills can vary greatly. Through many years of practice, I have developed reasonable skills in Microsoft Excel. But, if I’m honest, I probably use about 10% of the capabilities within Excel. I’ve worked with many people who have expertise in Excel far superior to my own. Do we both have Excel skills? Yes, but it would be terribly unfair to put our Excel skills in the same category. Obviously, there are varying degrees of skill levels.
What is the total universe of skills possessed by mankind? They will continue to evolve and change for sure. Eightfold.ai claims to have a database of over one million unique skills. Kind of hard to imagine that there are that many skills. And I’m not sure how many skills are required for a particular job. Does a job require soft skills only, or hard skills only? Probably some combination of the two.
Further, where do we go to get reliable information about a person’s skill set? Is it an honor system where we rely on the employee or applicant? Do we somehow test for skills? That will be unmanageable if there are over a million skills. Maybe other people vote in a LinkedIn style. Not sure, but it seems very tricky.
The talent intelligence approach is particularly thorny for hourly jobs. A good number of hourly jobs are entry-level positions. People take these jobs and learn skills through training and also by simply doing the job. They probably don’t have many hard or even soft skills to inventory. They just need an opportunity to learn and develop skills.
At Cadient Talent, we’ve worked extensively with clients who have a large contingent of hourly workers. You may be familiar with our recruiting software because we have served the talent acquisition needs of many Fortune 500 companies for more than 15 years. If you’ve ever held an hourly job, there’s a good possibility you used the Cadient system in the process of getting that job.
We often have to rely on factors other than specific skills to accurately predict which candidates will become quality hires in the hourly environment. We use artificial intelligence and machine learning to evaluate a candidate on a much wider variety of variables. Specific skills may correlate to job performance, but more often, the predictive variables are other things. Even more often, it’s a combination of these other variables that really matter.
For example, let’s say a person is applying for a cashier position at a retail store. Are math skills important? Absolutely. Are communication skills important? Yes. Does the presence of these skills mean that the person will benefit your company through long tenure and good performance? Unfortunately, it does not. If the person has a history of changing jobs every six months, or is highly educated, or lives 50 miles from the work location, or has never worked in a customer-facing role, or any combination of these variables, that is not likely to be a quality hire for the retail company despite the presence of requisite skills.
The right skills are an important component in the performance of any job. But the heart of the matter is, do your job candidates possess the required skills, and do they have the traits and characteristics of your best-performing employees in that job? Suppose you can automatically and quickly know the answer to that question. In that case, you have a great chance of hiring and retaining that person. If you’re relying only on the presence of certain skills, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.
When choosing new HR technology, it’s important to look past the latest buzz and hype. You must understand the characteristics that make your best employees – your best employees. That way, you can ensure your new technology will improve talent acquisition and give you a return on your investment.