HR Meets Big Data: How Analytics Are Helping Companies Identify and Develop Top Talent

Guy Halfteck, a former commander in the Israeli navy who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in game theory, had always been intrigued by what he saw as a core problem facing companies: how do you identify the best people to hire? He created Knack to help companies do just that.


Digging Into Dilbert
Whereas Knack’s specialty may be in assessing potential new hires, Evolv concentrates on understanding the health and efficiency of an existing workforce. Its tools, Evolv CEO Max Simkoff developed by industrial organization psychologists and data scientists, look at how long it takes a worker to come up the learning curve to do his or her job properly, at productivity once an employee is performing well and at attrition—or why someone quit.

It can study the impact of a supervisor’s conduct and whether the pay level was a factor in a decision to leave. It combines that info with external data from different industries and geographies to offer CEOs insights into how to identify, develop and encourage their best workers. Its customers skew toward larger companies, but it says customers with as few as 1,000 employees can benefit from its predictive analytics. In most cases, “we’ve improved productivity by 10 percent, lowered attrition by as much as 35 percent and lifted customer satisfaction scores by 4.9 percent,” says founder Simkoff. “What that means for senior executives is they can optimize and improve their existing workforce to deliver better performance.”

As with any technology solution, Simkoff acknowledges that algorithms should never replace human judgment. “Tools like ours are about supporting executives to make better human decisions,” he says.

In practice, the way Evolv’s technology works can be glimpsed at The Results Companies, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and has roughly $120 million in sales. Results helps other companies outsource their business processes and operate call centers or any sales or service function. Forty percent of its employees are in the U.S., 40 percent in the Philippines and 20 percent in Mexico. “If training and experience and having customer interaction is important to your business, analytical hiring and measurement is suited for any size organization,” says Alec Brecker, Results’ CEO.

The company’s software rates prospective hires with a color-coded system in which red means “don’t hire,” yellow means “hire with caution,” and green means “hire.” By concentrating on hiring green candidates, it has increased the tenure of its own employees by more than 20 percent, Brecker says, and it has helped customers increase the tenure of their employees by 5 to 8 percent.

Holstein-4One of the most intriguing possibilities is introducing customer-satisfaction data into the mix so that a CEO can know what type of employee is best at making customers happy. “That data is constantly being fed back and reviewed to ask, ‘How do we tweak the hiring profile of people?’ Brecker says. The company’s tools also can increase the total amount of sales per employee and reduce the number of customer complaints that a health insurance provider, for example, faces every day. If safety is a priority in a manufacturing company, The Results Companies can screen applicants in terms of their attitudes toward being careful.

The bottom line? CEOs now have tools that can give them unprecedented insight into how to hire the right employees and maximize their performance.

Sidebar: HR Tips From Moneyball


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