Lichens, a combination of a fungus and an alga, represent a perfect symbiotic relationship. They successfully thrive in a variety of places, from the Alps to the sea, and are among the oldest living things on planet earth. They grow at a rather slow rate – up to half a century to reach the size of a blueberry. They are particularly useful in dating earth’s history — from the Age of Dinosaurs to our current Age of Mammals — through the science of lichenometry. There are over 20,000 species.
You may ask, “What is the association between lichen and HR?” As Bill Bryson states, “Lichens are just about the hardiest visible organisms on Earth. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence.”
Like ubiquitous lichen, HR continuously strives to stay alive and add value. The function is a combination of professionals and HRIS in a symbiotic relationship. HR is in almost every workplace around the world, from the ‘Department of One’ to the bustling pyramid of CoEs, HRBPs, back-office SMEs and executives. Yes, while HR endeavors to grow, it is at a relatively lumbering rate with few substantive changes since the advent of the Personnel Department. Nonetheless, changes in the world of work can be, in part, gauged by the evolution from the Personnel Department to the new-fangled Office of CHRO. And, the science of big data analytics, now readily available to measure and predict talent pools and talent trends forms the latest symbiotic relationships with HR. Even though frequently under fire, HR professionals keep on truckin’ (just like lichen) in light of reputational abuse, uncharitable HRISs, budgetary handcuffs, and unrealistic demands from hiring leaders to find a unicorn.
As HR faces ever-more complex issues affecting human capital management (HCM), today’s HR has the opportunity to speed forward by moving into and embracing the digital landscape. HR can wave goodbye to its Lichen Age by embracing big data and advanced analytics. By bringing HR processes into the Digital Age, including taking up data analytics, HR stands to improve its reputation and put to rest the old fashioned Personnel Department. Utilizing the right data and extracting information aids HR’s capability to provide insights, make data driven decisions, predict trends, and design customize solutions.
How do big data analytics, coupled with HCM software, concretely aid and abet the HR function and its ROI? When used effectively, one example is found in recruitment and selection processes. There is a ton of information waiting to be unearthed from a variety of sources – an organization’s HR data base, social media, and business related social networking sites, to name a few. Finding the data is the easiest step. More difficult is analyzing the data. The weighty challenge to HR professionals is interpreting its meaning.
If you take the recruitment and selection processes and apply big data analytics, HR is catapulted from the world of slow growing lichens to the
savannahs of the speedy cheetah. Recruitment software with rich algorithms combined with advanced analytics, offers a lot of concrete value: reduced hiring timelines and costs; predictions about future hiring needs; enhanced employee retention; decreased biases/increased objectivity; a robust hiring process; and, a stronger talent pool.
So to any HR lichen reading this, your best partner in today’s complex and mobile world of work is technology with its software algorithms, data digging, and processing speed. By putting big data to work for you and using advanced analytics, HR can not only quantify its ROI, it can take continuous and informed actions to maximize the ROI by, for example, identifying enhanced talent pools for current and future job openings. Give it a try — think of the upside — you can get ahead of today’s digital tools with the momentum of a cheetah. After all, the next wave is fast approaching…artificial intelligence (AI), which is sure to gobble up lichens and blueberries.
Bryson, B., A Short History of Nearly Everything, New York (2003), Broadway Books, pp. 335-349. Weingarten, J., How HR Departments Can Obtain and Use Big Data, DataInformed, October 18, 2016. Wills, J., 3 Surprising Things That Big Data Reveals About HR, Investopedia, September 17, 2016.