businessman working with modern virtual technologiesThe Big data debate in HR has been raging for some time now. Vendors and commentators rave about the power and transformational potential of big data to move hiring from darkness into the light. Many of the more progressive and well-funded companies are on board, but the majority are still consigned to reading about Big data in trade magazines – seeing it as arcane, newfangled and superfluous to the daily grind.

But, hiring teams can no longer cling to the, “I’m too busy fighting tigers to develop arrows argument anymore.” Progress is becoming inescapable, if not for the improvements that Big data can bring to hiring but initially because the hiring process is broken or simply doesn’t produce immaculate end products. For starters, this Leadership IQ study shows us that 46 percent of new hires fail within 18 months and that the most commonly used type of hiring, that is the much maligned, unstructured interviews, has just a 31 percent predictive reliability. Even the holy grail of hiring, the structured interview has only a 62 percent predictive reliability, which is hardly a home run. I mean, would you invest $60k of your own money in an investment with a 62 percent chance of success? No need to answer that.

The point is that the hiring process is broken, but because we have nothing else better to offer, no one really wants to face up to the fact that it’s a bit of a lottery. This is not really a problem but a massive opportunity for HR and hiring teams to take hiring from the darkness (or perhaps dusk) right out into the light using Big data. Yes, finally I believe we have something better to offer than the current hiring process, an evolution fueled by Big data.

While I admit that that there is a lot of dubious, noisy, headline grabbing Big data content splurged across the media, one study has cut through the noise and convinced me that Big data is the next stage of evolution in hiring for the entirety of HR.

Yes, it seems that Xerox managed to cut attrition rates by a fifth by incorporating Big data algorithms into their hiring decisions. They did this by identifying what the ideal call center employee was based on a Big data analysis of their current workforce, revealing that the most effective employees: live near the job, have reliable transport, make use of one or more social networks, and they aren’t inquisitive, empathetic but rather creative. They even use a Big data based screening system to test candidates and give a green, amber and red analysis, with green being automatically hired and amber being hired if deemed trainable.

With this study, Xerox has brought Big data hiring down from the clouds and conceptually, (if not financially), put Big data in the hands and capability of everyone. This isn’t rocket science, this is a clear and simple presentation of how Big data can help to remedy the broken hiring process and take it to the next level.

I think it is time for recruiting and HR teams to act in relation to broken hiring practices; paralysis is no longer an option given the available Big data remedies on the market. Budget is not the obvious barrier it once was. I mean, what self respecting CEO would not turn their head if you told them that the hiring process was, as it stood, at best about 62 percent reliable. With the right argument, hiring and HR teams should be able to secure some funding for evolving hiring to the next level with Big data.

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