Can LinkedIn’s analytics tool help HR beat the talent squeeze?


Last week, LinkedIn launched a new tool it claims will deliver “data on demand” to HR and recruitment professionals struggling to find the right talent.

Talent Insights is a self-service analytics tool that taps into the corporate network’s 575 million professionals,  20 million companies and 15 million active job listings.

More than 80 users have already tested the tool during a pilot, but it is now available to everyone – albeit for a subscription fee depending on the size of organisation.

The tool can be used in two ways: firstly, to build a talent pool report showing where people with certain skills are, facts such as the universities they attend and how they engage with your brand. Secondly, recruiters can access a report on their own company and how it compares to its peers in terms of talent management.

So if a company were looking to hire a product developer in a particular industry, it would show the user a report of how many professionals have skills and experience to match their needs, where they are geographically, and what demand for those professionals is like in those locations.

According to LinkedIn’s senior manager for product marketing Jerome Leclercq, the combination of search capability and simple user interface means HR professionals can produce data insights “in minutes”. He says: “It means you can have a data-driven conversation with line managers about why they might not be able to fill a role. You can show them ‘this is where the talent is, this is what happens if we remove this skill from the job description’, for example. Every manager can have an opinion about recruitment but in order to make headway they need data and insight to prove or disprove their opinions.”

When it comes to internal workforce planning, organisations can produce a company report to see the roles and skills they need most urgently, and support workforce planning by flagging up skills that are likely to be in demand in future. Talent Insights can also run reports on competitors’ talent “bench-strength”, providing an overview of their workforce composition, attrition, skills make-up and more.

But why would organisations share this potentially market-sensitive information? Leclerq argues that attitudes towards recruitment transparency have changed. “The validation for this came in early on when we were building the tool,” he says. “Organisations are getting to the stage where, in order to benefit from large-scale data, it’s a compromise. If you want to know more, then you have to give some back too.”

Data-driven recruitment is nothing new. There are hundreds of tech start-ups in the recruitment space specialising in machine learning and artificial intelligence. The growth of in-house recruitment functions also demonstrates a commitment from organisations to source their own intelligence on the market for talent in their sector, rather than relying on agencies. Arguably the LinkedIn tool enables them to collate candidate information quickly and find answers to questions about talent they may be fielding from the board.

It’s also a useful tool for measuring engagement with employer brand – a query can show whether candidates are clicking on company updates and how often they visit a company page – something LinkedIn claims can help employers build better messaging and target candidates more effectively. “This knowledge can help you adjust your job description and pitch accordingly and inform what aspects of your culture you should emphasise,” the company says.

Mervyn Dinnen, a HR and talent trends analyst, describes it as “a huge move from LinkedIn”.

He says: “It’s a much needed offering for users to have access to the data they need to both help them understand market trends and skill availability, and to be able to refine and better target their searches.”

In this vein, Leclerq describes the geolocation aspect of Talent Insights as one of its most valuable contributions. One of the tool’s earliest adopters, LinkedIn’s parent company Microsoft, used it to see where it might find cyber security professionals.

“In minutes, they could see that there were high numbers of individuals with these skills near to their office on the east coast of the US, so they built a business case to hire over there,” he adds. Chip manufacturer Intel also used the tool to target candidates in Poland, where it had a limited advertising budget.

It means you can have a data-driven conversation with line managers about why they might not be able to fill a role.” – Jerome Leclerq, LinkedIn

But while LinkedIn argues that Talent Insights will offer previously untapped data analytics of the 75% of UK workers that have an online professional profile, could this replace the experience and expertise of agencies in hard-to-fill roles? Clare Bain, co-founder of specialist recruiter Bain and Gray, believes that data does not have all the answers when it comes to sourcing the best talent. “We keep abreast of future skills by regularly talking to our clients, who range from leading blue-chip companies to high profile entrepreneurs, and asking them what they need,” she says.

Many candidates looking for executive assistant roles, for example, want to develop their skills and experience outside this area and will return to the agency when they’ve got more to offer. Data searches cannot replicate this relationship, she adds.

“We are a close-knit team and focus on building a long-standing relationship with every candidate in our network. Rather than utilising keyword searches or analysing data, we get to know the faces behind the CVs to offer a bespoke, tailored recruitment process which our clients and candidates appreciate.”

Erica Titchener, global head of technology and talent strategy consulting at Alexander Mann Solutions, believes the tool could be powerful if users exploit the data in the right way.

“This type of business intelligence is a logical next step for LinkedIn, and while the concept of harnessing analytics to inform people decisions isn’t new, the appeal of LinkedIn’s offering lies in the type and volume of data it holds,” she says.

But she adds a note of caution: “The ‘self-service’ should open talent analytics – and the benefits that data-driven recruitment brings – to a wider audience. Analysis of LinkedIn’s data could deliver significant benefits to an organisation, but we know that we’re reliant on the user when it comes to the content of social media profiles and the information on an individual’s profile can sometimes be misleading or even fabricated. Not to mention a true understanding of data often requires professional analysis.”

Dinnen also warns that recruiters will need to “use it wisely”. He adds: “With jobseekers listing the opportunity to learn new skills, and grow and develop, as key reasons for joining and staying with an employer, the recruiter search needs to also identify candidates with potential, and with skills and capabilities that can be developed, rather than focus purely on finding people who seem to tick all the boxes.”

As the labour market gets tighter, a tool that allows HR professionals to access reliable and relatable data on skills availability and how employers compare can only be a positive development. What users do with the insights they generate will be the most compelling story.

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