I’ve been busy this week engaging with Talent Leaders in Europe on the subject of actionable insights – i.e. perspectives on performance and activity data that make you stand up as a manager and say something like ‘Why is that happening?’  Actionable Insights are those reported outputs that invoke a reaction in managers to encourage them to ‘intervene’ in the way things work today in order to achieve (at least) single loop learning improvements – doing things better – or (hopefully) double loop learning improvements – doing better things.

But what about Talent Acquisition and Resourcing Professionals?  Don’t they also need smarter ways of looking at their data?

Certainly there are many KPIs and reports floating around the industry in support of the recruitment life-cycle.  Most of these are measuring ‘counts’ in activity – interviews completed, vacancies outstanding, time-to-fill etc. Fabled talent scorecards are rife in the industry but I generally get sighs and huffs when I ask senior executives how useful these sorts of performance metrics are: Better than nothing, perhaps?

After lots of interesting comments from clients and heated discussions, I think I’m down to a top 4 of the most prized actionable insights; four main areas where ‘outcome-centric’ reports would be highly cherished by talent acquisition professionals. These are:

1.  What’s my current talent capability and requirement?

Sounds pretty straight-forward and obvious but it isn’t always that easy for talent leaders to know what people are capable of in a large enterprise, particularly when multi-regional or international.  The other side of the coin is understanding demand – and having reasonable lead-times to source the best-fit talent in the right place at the right time.  Often, when given more time, resourcing professionals and their third party vendors have more time to fill vacancies.  This additional time can make a big difference to the quality of sourced talent.

Actionable insights in this case can harvest knowledge of skills and capabilities of the workforce; a holistic view of the talent capability that already exists.   They can also create a early warning system for talent requirements.

2. What’s the true bottom-line cost of talent acquisition to my business?

I’m still surprised by the number of organizations that have yet to apply Supply-Chain Management good practice to their talent sourcing, particularly when it comes to interim and contract staffing.  Many companies suffer from a ‘back-door’ to unbudgeted costs in the form of departmental budgets for consulting, IT and process improvement that makes it almost impossible to fully account for the cost of talent, or work out if the best-fit talent is being sourced.  I suspect in many of the global companies we do business with that much of the contracted talent being sourced may be well served by existing internal resources or existing agency suppliers.  A fragmented understanding of the talent landscape, resulting from different systems and business units reporting in different ways and having their own local buying agreements, means that poor-er decisions are knowingly made (reluctantly and with a sense of helplessness) by talent acquisition and resourcing leaders that have no other option but to meet the list of wants presented to them by the business in the best possible way.

Actionable insights can’t fix the problem of poor budget planning or weak fiscal controls over departmental spending policies but constructing a more complete understanding of bottom-line costs is something that can be achieved through a joined-up governance approach coordinated by financial and talent leaders.

3. What’s in my pipeline?

The recruitment process is very much a pipeline with easily quantifiable steps that can be measured both in terms of ‘activities’ and ‘outcomes’.  At least, you might think so.  Measurement gets more confusing when multiple business units or companies are involved, and even more of a muddle when third party vendors are engaged and report on their activities in different ways.  Systems too – like Vendor Management Systems (VMS) – can lack continuity or completeness in the way they report.  This mix of sources and formats can produce large volumes of reports and KPIs but not always the best ones.

Actionable insights can be delivered in the form of visual and interactive pipelines that allow talent acquisition and resourcing professionals to audit each aspect of recruitment performance.

4. I know you’re rubbish but I just can’t prove it

Suppliers are had to remove if you’ve no evidence they’re not performing – but measuring performance with ‘activity count’ style measures can invoke the wrong behaviors in suppliers and – through the law of unintended consequences – lead to undesirable outcomes.  In principle the sort of measures needed to prove that suppliers are performing well, or not, should be readily available fro existing reporting mechanisms.  Surprising therefore that sourcing professionals still struggle to deliver robust facts against which suppliers can be benchmarked.

What is the economic impact of these potential weaknesses in performance evidencing and insights?  I expect in most organizations, these sub-optimal levels of reporting quality continue without a clear measurable ‘cost to the business’ impact: The costs are there, but they’re very well hidden across many different budgeting areas and sub-optimal supplier relationships leading to inflated talent sourcing costs.

What would cause it to change? I suspect it will take a ready-to-deploy service or solution to emerge in the market that talent acquisitions and sourcing professionals can ‘plug-in’ in order to gain the insights they need, given that it would be extremely difficult to build a business case against such very well concealed costs.

Those are my perspectives. I’d welcome yours ;-)