Proactive Vs. Reactive: How Is Your HR Department Perceived?

Proactive Vs. Reactive: How Is Your HR Department Perceived?

Emily Smykal

hr department roles and responsibilitiesBusiness leaders expect their marketers, salespeople, even designers to be proactive, staying one step ahead of the competition. So why not their recruiters? HR professionals have traditionally been viewed as reactive—sourcing talent and filling gaps as needs arise. But we’re in the midst of a data revolution, and recruiters can’t ignore the vast wealth of information and tools now at their disposal.

Shifting from a reactive mindset to a more proactive talent acquisition strategy isn’t easy, but a recent report from Development Dimensions International (DDI) World shows just how much catching up HR professionals have to do when it comes to using data and creating value for their companies.

Senior Leaders and Their View of Human Resources

DDI World’s Global Leadership Forecast 2014/2015, which surveyed 13,124 senior leaders around the world, identifies three different types of HR professionals:

  • Reactor—Ensures compliance with policies/practices; provides tools/systems when asked.
  • Partner—Openly exchanges information about current issues; collaboratively works toward mutual goals.
  • Anticipator—Uses data to predict talent gaps; provides insights linking talent to business goals.

data in human resourcesYou’d expect most recruiters would want to be labeled anticipators, or at the very least partners. And as shown to the right, 60% of the HR leaders surveyed described themselves as partners. But the researchers conducted a follow-up survey which compared their answers to the perceptions of 113 VPs and CxOs, and the results are rather concerning.

More than anything else, senior leaders view their HR teams as reactive. If only 20% of VPs and CxOs describe their HR counterparts as anticipators, it may be safe to conclude that the majority of talent acquisitions teams aren’t proactively using relevant data in a way that creates value for their company.

And the DDI World report backs this up. The survey also asked respondents to describe the data they receive from HR, based on whether their company’s HR professionals are reactors, partners, or anticipators. Data supplied by reactors was most commonly labeled ‘infrequent,’ and ‘past-oriented,’ while data coming from partners and anticipators was more likely to be considered ‘valuable’ and ‘relevant’.’

Data and the Difference in Opinions

Further evidence of the disparity between the attitudes of HR professionals and their counterparts in other departments comes from a 2014 report by The Conference Board. It found that CEOs chose human capital as the number one challenge they face in the near future.

Yet when asked how they intend to address the issue of human capital, the same respondents listed analytics of key human capital initiatives and programs near the bottom, at 19 out of 22 choices. Also surprising was the lack of interest in social media as a recruitment tool, which tied for 20th on the list.

These results don’t match up with the attitudes of talent acquisition leaders, who recognize they haven’t been making the best use of the data at their disposal, and have seen an increasing number of quality hires coming in from social media sites. Emphasizing the value of HR data and analytics, including new forms of recruitment like social media, could do a lot to better align the perceptions of senior business leaders and their HR professionals.

Is Your Team Reactive or Proactive?

Take a moment to consider your own talent acquisition team. Would you describe them as future-oriented? Do they provide relevant metrics? Can they forecast upcoming needs? If not, your HR professionals probably need to up their game and become more proactive.

The ability to forecast might be one of the most important skills recruiters can develop using analytics. An HR team can first use descriptive analytics to build a base—a thorough understanding of their workforce already in place. Next, the addition of outside data like economic trends and demographic shifts, can paint a broader picture of the future facing your business.

Finally, applying predictive analytics based on all of this information would allow recruiters to anticipate future gaps, identify potential quality hires, and adapt based on changes in the broader marketplace.

Shifting the Perception of Recruiting Toward Anticipator

We often describe our world today as a data-driven culture, but we know the adoption of strategic data and its successful application is not so evenly distributed. Recruiters have found themselves in the awkward position of being behind the curve, but they needn’t stay that way.

Data usage among retailers provides an excellent case study for HR professionals. In retail, data is used for everything from marketing promotions, to assessing inventory, and forecasting demand. HR leaders who adopt a compelling attitude towards using data can drive this sort of change from reactive to proactive within their organizations.

By developing a recruitment strategy that emphasizes useful data, aligned with the overall goals and future needs of the company, HR leaders can go from lagging behind to leading the way. Something their fellow VPs and CxOs will surely notice.

The first step toward making any data-driven decisions is to get a better understanding of analytics in recruiting in general. To learn more read our whitepaper, Analytics in Talent Acquisition: The Hype, the Reality, and the Future.

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