- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

HR and Big Data: A Marriage Made in Analytics Heaven?

At a Business Analytics Summit in Toronto, the sponsor, IBM, opened one session by asking the question, “Which reporter was fired because she was ‘unfit for TV’?”

The answer was “Oprah Winfrey.” The session, entitled “Attracting, Developing, and Retaining Outstanding Human Capital,” focused on the use of Big Data and Analytics to improve accuracy in  HR functions, such as hiring TV reporters.

Our question to you: could the insurance industry in Canada benefit from these tools in managing staffing needs?

Romance is not dead, it’s just gone to work …

In a recent article in the The Gurardian’s Sunday Observer, columnist Tim Adams describes the work of engineer Alistair Shepherd in a London Google incubator.  The goal is to bring forward Big Data driven technology to “Optimize your workforce” (the tag line for Saberr, the business being incubated).

Adams reports that Shepherd’s investigation of the social science of human interaction informing HR tools such as Myers-Briggs, uncovered “a mine-field of competing psychological models, mostly from the middle of the last century.”

Shepherd sought alternatives and found one:  On-line dating, which, Shepherd says “seemed to me a great place to start. It provides a digital record on a very large scale that answers a very simple question: which two people will have a successful relationship?”

Research into this world allowed Shepherd to develop a theory which hinged on resonance of shared values, rather than personality types, as the most effective driver of creative partnerships and teams.

He tested this in an innovation competition, asking participants to answer 25 on-line questions, based on the dating research.  Shepherd used a crude algorithm to analyze the results,  ranking the individuals and ultimately the eight teams in the competition for probability of success.

The competition then occurred, the judges scored the innovation results, and ordered the teams with no knowledge of Shepherd’s results.  At the end, the judges’ list and Shepherd’s lists were ordered identically.

This was enough to convince Google that the approach had enough merit to pursue.  Shepherd is just at the beginning of experiments to determine how this approach would work in a commercial environment.

We are just at the beginning, here, but ….

IBM’s presented success rates for Big Data driven HR activities, including likelihood to accept offers of employment, likelihood of becoming an executive, and likelihood of turnover.  However, there is no tidal wave of adoption yet.  IBM notes that only 25% of Chief HR Officers are using analytics for forward looking analysis.

However, IBM does paint a roadmap for adoption of these tools which will provide additional data to the HR functions.  Interestingly Adams for his article, interviewed Sunil Chandra, Google’s vice-president of global staffing and operations.  Chandra summarizes Google’s approach Google’s most important function- recruiting.

“We think of recruiting as an art and a science. We are known for the analytics side of it, but we really do have people also look at all the applications we get.”  He adds that the use of data has reduced the number of interview required from 10-12 to 4-5.

What does this mean for insurance?

Roger Bickmore, Group Business Development Director at Kiln Group, a Lloyd’s underwriter, suggests that the industry’s use of analytics is “uneven”. Writing in Insurance Network News, On the one hand, “the latest models and computer simulations have been eagerly embedded into processes designed to preserve financial resilience.”

When it comes to managing human resources, however, Brickmore writes, we “have invested little in innovating the way we are recruited; how our careers are progressed; how we are rewarded; or where and how we work.”

What do you think?

We’d like your experiences and thoughts.  Do you see more analytic tools replacing current HR functions?  Is so, is this an improvement, or a turn for the worse.

Help us work this out.


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