I’m excited about HR Tech World in Amsterdam. For one thing, it’s a new country for me. I love to travel, but for some reason, I haven’t made it that far north yet. For another, two whole days learning about HR things.
You may laugh at that, but listen, I work from home. My husband is a statistician. My kids, are well, kids. So the other day when I started babbling on about the implications of a new court case involving employee bag searching and compensable time, they kind of just rolled their collective eyes at me. Who cares about this stuff?
Me. I care. And so do the people at HR Tech World. And remember that statistician husband I have? Well, we met in the same graduate school program where we both learned statistics, which means deep down I have a love of data. And data, in fact, is what brought me to Human Resources in the first place. HR data was a new field back in the dark ages of 1999 and I got hired because I could do statistics and had some vague idea of what a salary survey was.
So, one panel I’m really looking forward to is Balancing Evidence and Intuition: Aligning Talent Analytics to Business Objectives (Day 1 in the Smart Data breakout). Yes, I am just this much fun at parties too!
Why does this interest me? Because it’s always a conundrum. We use analytics in all areas of business. We have forecasting models. We do focus groups. We pay people to agonize over data and predict trends. Sometimes these predictions fail miserably but most of the time they are pretty good for predicting growth (or the lack thereof). But what about when it comes to people?
People, we say, are different. We can’t just use data when hiring people. We conduct job interviews and we feel whether a candidate will fit into our group. We get a sense of whether or not this person has the skills we need. From a data standpoint, job interviews are a pretty ridiculous way to hire.
Think about it: what’s your job? Is your job to sit down with strangers and explain why you’re awesome? Probably not. But, we judge you highly on that skill when we’re hiring. If your job is to explain things other than why you are awesome to strangers, then an interview is probably a pretty good tool. But, if your job is to analyze data, or build buildings, or paint pictures, your interview skills aren’t really that important.
But, we place so much importance on the interview. We feel that our intuition is better than the data could ever be.
I can’t say, though, that we should just throw out the intuition part of hiring, because we all have stories of where we took a risk on a candidate and that candidate turned out to be the best thing since sliced bread. If we had simply looked at the paper (the evidence) we would have rejected this person. But something she said or did during the interview made us go, “Huh, this person is awesome!”
But, we all also have stories of having that same feeling, hiring that person and then finding that person to be a complete and total disaster. And firing someone is the worst, and almost impossible in many European countries—especially if you don’t do it immediately.
What makes the difference? Do some hiring managers and recruiters simply have better intuition than others? Should we focus more on data? What tips one candidate over the edge when both have similar data attached to them? Should we develop tests for candidates rather than give interviews?
What about promotions? Should they be more data-oriented or more intuition oriented? Should the intuition of a senior team member outweigh the data provided by the employees’ actual work product? How do you measure something like management potential?
It’s complicated, as you can see. So, this session is on my list. I’ll be the geeky HR person in the front row, with my purple glasses on, in case you’re looking to find me.