Most of what we know about hiring great people is wrong.
But don’t despair. If you discover what really does make the difference between your best employees and the rest, you may be able to fish from a pool of undiscovered talent, more productive than before, cheaper, and easier to hire and keep.
This is the promise of “moneyball” – the analysis and synthesis of all the data that employers (mostly) already have on their employees.
The data-driven moneyball strategy could be the next big thing to hit recruitment and talent management since the advent of online hiring. Quite simply, it aims to take the guesswork, gut feel and prejudice out of hiring and promotion decisions.
For instance, did you know that casual workers who fill out online job applications with third-party browsers like Firefox or Chrome perform better and change jobs less often than people who use Internet Explorer?
US predictive analytics company Evolv analysed data from up to 100,000 employees to discover that fact.
And why should the choice of browser matter? The vice-president of global sourcing and talent strategy at Randstad, Glen Cathey, speculates that people who have taken the trouble to download a browser that has not been pre-installed by the computer manufacturer have made a conscious decision that they prefer the performance of something else.
“It indicates a higher IQ and that they are better performers,” he says. “It is a lot about exercising independent judgment.”
Here’s something else you probably didn’t know: people with a criminal background are better call centre employees than cleanskins, according to Evolv.
Think about how grateful you would be if a company was willing to give you a chance, despite your blemished record. That kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
“They have more to prove. They need the job,” says Cathey.
And the data also shows that job-hoppers are no more likely to quickly quit than people who have a history of staying put. That is another much-maligned group of job-seekers that could be worth another look.
Data-based conclusions like these cast a new light on hiring requirements. The things we used to think were important, like a clean record and job stability, can fade into irrelevance once you start looking for evidence to prove that they really matter.
Job myths exploded
And what about the biggest requirement in hiring: previous experience? It is still the “big daddy” in all job interviews. Hiring managers generally believe that people who have done the job before are a better bet.
Cathey says that for hourly (casual) workers, people with no previous experience in a similar job had the same probability of survival over 180 days as experienced workers. So, for those kinds of jobs, having done the job before makes no difference.
“For hourly workers, it is not necessary to pay top dollar for experienced labour,” he says.
According to Evolv’s white paper Workforce Wives Tales , “All the conventional wisdom about how to better recruit, retain and manage an hourly workforce can and should be tested. That may sound like a pipe dream, but it’s not.”
What is moneyball?
The strategy of moneyball was popularised by a book from journalist Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, and a movie based on it, which detailed the journey of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, which was gutted when far richer clubs stole its best players. The club’s general manager Billy Beane was sold on the idea of looking solely at statistics to find talented players that the other clubs overlooked.
Many of these players had significant weaknesses, but if they were put in the right position and operated as a team, they could do what they did best, while not being called upon to be all-rounders. These players were described in the movie as being “like an island of broken toys”.
Thanks to moneyball, the club achieved the longest unbroken string of wins in the history of the game and, with a salary budget of $41 million, outdid clubs who were spending three times as much.
The lesson here for employers is that an ideal employee could be someone they would typically reject.
“Many employers are discriminating against people . . . they may be avoiding better performers. We are going to have to make more data-based decisions,” says Cathey.
“I’m not saying you have to hire people you don’t like, based on numbers, but I think [hiring] is going to be a whole picture put together, more like a scorecard.”
And the really good news for employers is: if you stop fighting over the same small pool of people and fish elsewhere, you can save a lot of money.
“If you could identify the overlooked people, you are no longer fighting the war for talent over the same people.
“Companies can technically pay less because there is a premium to pay when you are all after the same people,” says Cathey.
“In Silicon Valley, everyone wants to recruit from the same five companies.”
This is an extract of a June 5 BRW article by workplace affairs writer Fiona Smith. AHRI has reposted it with permission. You can read the full article on the BRW website.