When it comes to staff recruitment, promotions and succession planning, HR professionals often find themselves having to rely on gut feelings, writes Andrew LaFontaine

Whether it’s a face-to-face interview, feedback from line managers, or day-to-day interactions with staff, they can tend to base decisions on emotion rather than facts. It’s a case of using the heart more than the head.

While this can result in positive outcomes, it means decisions are often made without having a complete picture of the staff member involved. Factors such as job performance, training and even prior experience may not be given the weight they deserve during the decision-making process.

Data-driven decisions
New digital technology now is rapidly changing this situation. A growing number of organisations are harnessing tools that allow them to take a much more analytical approach to staff management.

This new approach centres on the creation of talent profiles of each staff member in an organisation. While similar in concept to traditional HR personnel record files, these digital dossiers go much further. They contain everything from education details and prior experiences to summaries of on-the-job training.

The profiles can also contain information about an individual’s leadership skills, their current performance, and how well they are respected by their managers and peers. Such data provides a much clearer and holistic picture of an individual and their position within the organisation.

“It’s a case of using the heart more than the head”

Once in place, staff talent profiles can be used to map out career progression and succession paths and ensure individuals are in the best position to add maximum value to the organisation. Such insights were simply not possible before the digital tools that underpin the profiling system were put in place.

The approach is similar to that taken by organisations when it comes to their customers. Rich profiles are created based on knowledge of previous interactions that allow much more targeted attention and improved service levels.

Proactive advice
In addition to being an electronic repository for all relevant information about staff members, the software underpinning the talent profiles offers a range of other features.

When an individual enters details of their career aspirations, the system can track their progress and make proactive suggestions on extra training or new roles for which they should consider applying. As more information is entered over time, the profile becomes constantly more valuable.

Getting fresh information into the talent profile is made easier by opening access to the individuals themselves. Rather than being locked away in an HR department filing cabinet, the profiles can be accessed by staff members at any time. This empowers employees to take control of their careers in a very tangible way.

If the talent profiles are managed using a cloud-based platform, employees gain further benefits. They will be able to access and interact with their profiles from work, home or mobile device. This will allow them to be much more engaged with their career progression and have a clear idea of the steps they need to take to advance through their organisation.

“Rather than being locked away in an HR department filing cabinet, the profiles can be accessed by staff members at any time”

While digital talent profiles have, as yet, only been rolled out by a relatively small number of organisations, uptake is expected to grow quickly as the benefits of the approach become more widely known. McKinsey Global Institute research suggests that businesses deploying digital talent platforms to their full potential could increase output by up to 9 percent, reduce employee-related costs by up to 7 percent, and add an average of 275 basis points to profit margins. Companies have also been able to reduce attrition, and raise productivity by 3 or 4 percent when implementing digital HR practices.

The heart and the head are certainly not mutually exclusive when it comes to effective staff management. However, by taking the digital-first approach, having access to rich data as well as personal insights, HR professionals can be confident they are making the best decisions possible.

This shift in approaches is one that Oracle customer, Randstad is seeing as a necessity to gain a competitive advantage and stay ahead of the curve.  Christophe Montagnon, director of operations, shared earlier in a Forbes article, “Interpersonal relationships are important in our business, but to continue building trust, we must be one of the first movers in using digital technologies.”

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