HRAccording to SHL’s Global Assessment Trends Report 2013, 77 per cent of HR professionals do not know how workforce potential is affecting the company bottom line and less than half of organizations surveyed use objective talent data to drive business decisions. The study of nearly 600 HR professionals worldwide, suggests that HR is overwhelmed by the volume of employee data and struggle to elicit meaningful insight that will help drive businesses forward and deliver results.

With organizations focused on restructuring, cost-cutting and growing the top line in tough markets, HR’s 2013 priorities reflect the organization’s need to engage their talent (55% of those surveyed) and cultivate strong leaders (52%) to drive change. The report reveals the other priorities of HR professionals are performance management (49%), workforce planning/talent analytics (43%) and training (42%). HR priorities reflect the contention between balancing short-term employee productivity and performance with longer-term strategy of aligning talent to the needs and vision of the business.

“Our research shows that even though organizations measure employee performance, they have historically focused on efficiency data, like how well an employee is performing versus data that allows them to make a strategic talent decision,” said Ken Lahti, vice president, Product Development and Innovation, SHL. “This means key information on talent potential and future capability is overlooked, effectively making targeted programs that identify the next generation of leaders and nurture talent for critical roles ineffective. This increases succession risk for organizations, putting business performance and continuity in jeopardy.”

The Challenge of Big Data

The report also revealed that HR professionals are facing a “big data deluge” with confusion over how to manage talent data to impact company performance. As of 2012, around 2.5 exabytes of data are created each day, which is set to double every 40 months. Two major challenges for HR to overcome are data quality and accessibility, and respondents indicated that there is room for improvement in these areas.

Despite workforce planning and talent analytics being referenced among the top five priorities, less than half of respondents (44%) said their organizations use objective data on employees’ competencies and skills to make workforce decisions and only 18% of HR professionals are currently satisfied with the way their organization manages talent data.  However, according to the upcoming report from CEB, SHL’s parent company, organizations that are effective at using talent analytics can boost employee bench strength, performance, and retention by up to 19%.

Social media is one source of data which is adding to the deluge and distracting HR from the metrics that matter; despite 88% of employers claiming a lack of confidence in the quality of candidate data from social media sites, 20% use that information to make hiring decisions, and 30% believe the data is useful in determining candidate fit.

“HR is still grappling with its ability to provide strategic data to the business on its workforce and is ill-equipped right now to take advantage of big data.  They do not yet have the systems and tools required to identify people intelligence, create metrics, and link HR data sources together,” said Lahti. “The ability to analyze greater volumes of complex workforce data and translate in to meaningful talent metrics offers HR the opportunity to identify skill shortages and development opportunities, while also answering the most pressing talent questions, such as whether the company has the talent to execute on its business plan and grow at the desired rate.”

The Global Assessment Trends Report survey was completed by 592 HR professionals from companies headquartered throughout the world including the UK, US, China, Australia, and South Africa covering ten industry sectors across small, medium and large enterprises. The report focuses on key trends within the HR landscape in 2013 as well as insights into talent assessment practices.