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The role of HR in talent optimization

As an HR professional, you play a key role in talent optimization at your organization—both in collecting and analyzing people data and in using it to hire the right talent.

While some may view HR as the department responsible for employee paperwork, hiring, and conflict resolution, human resources plays a much bigger, more strategic role in organizations that optimize talent.

HR’s role in diagnosing people problems

By leveraging critical people data, you can improve your organizational culture, employee engagement, and new hire success rate. Here’s how:

Measure what matters.

Most businesses regularly monitor key performance indicators, like revenue, Net Promoter Score®, and customer acquisition cost. But what about metrics that provide insight into your company’s biggest cost and biggest asset: your people?

You can measure what matters by collecting people data (behavioral styles, employee engagement, job performance, etc.) through assessments, surveys, and talent audits.

Analyze the evidence.

Once you’ve collected this data, you’ll analyze it within your business context. For example, you may conduct an employee engagement survey and find your employees are not actively engaged in their roles. From here you can form a hypothesis about why this is and ways to solve the issue.

Prescribe improvement actions.

In your collection and analysis of people data, you may uncover several problems you’d like to resolve. The key to successfully prescribing improvement actions is to prioritize and focus on one thing at a time.
Consider these factors when prioritizing:

  • Examine the magnitude. What’s the level of impact on your organization and business results?
  • Determine the relevance. Is this problem really important? Was this problem flagged by your low performers or high performers?
  • Consider the breadth. How widespread is this problem? Problems that span a larger portion of the organization should take precedence over less impactful issues.
  • Look for repetition. Is this a problem that happens over and over? Is there a pattern to the problem (e.g., lower engagement scores consistently coming from newer employees)?

With these considerations in mind, prioritize your action plan and focus on taking one prescriptive action at a time.

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HR’s role in hiring the right talent

By taking a talent optimization approach to hiring, you can ensure you’re finding the right culture fit for your company, the right candidate for the role, and the right personality fit for the team your new hire will be joining.

Here are two ways you can do that:

Create a clear job description.

Ever hired a candidate who wasn’t a great fit for the role, even though they looked great on paper? Often we create job descriptions based on what we think the role requires.

In taking a talent optimization approach to crafting a job description, you’ll solicit input from stakeholders: hiring managers, high-performing employees currently in the role, people who will work closely with the new hire, and sometimes senior leaders.

Be sure to ask questions that will elicit concrete responses, such as:

  • What are the most important and frequent activities of this role?
  • What behavioral style and temperament is most naturally suited to do this type of work?
  • How quickly will an individual need to successfully learn new information and skills?
  • How flexible and adaptable will the person need to be in this role?
  • What specific knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed?

Gather information about the job responsibilities, as well as the behavioral and cognitive requirements before creating your job description. This information will give you a complete picture of who you’re looking for—beyond simply relevant skills and experience.

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Collect candidate data.

To ensure you’re hiring the right fit for the role, collect objective data about candidates. In addition to a resume and work history, collect information about:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Education
  • Behavioral profile
  • Cognitive ability
  • Values

This information will help you look at a candidate holistically and determine if they’re an appropriate fit for the role, the team, and the organization. Collecting objective data also allows you to make impartial decisions and avoid hiring bias.

By implementing these talent optimization activities into your regular responsibilities, you’ll help your organization take a more strategic approach to how they manage their most valuable asset: people.

HR team


Shannon is a product manager at PI. She has a mirror-image twin sister—but they didn't discover this until they were 26.

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