Despite the continual buzz around analytics and big data in HR, it’s only good if it results in tangible (and positive) actions.

With the latest development in talent management, organizations have the opportunities to use their data to produce exactly this type of positive actions – hiring and retaining the right people for the right jobs. The following suggestions offer routes to using your analytics and data for practical outcomes that will benefit your business.

Know what and who you’re looking for

Using a job description with an accompanying skills profile is a long-established way of specifying the kind of person you’re hoping to recruit. The more updated version is the “employee template” – defining your ideal employee in more detail.

By analyzing the data you hold on past new recruits – specifically, the higher-performing individuals – you can devise a more detailed picture of a desirable new hire.

A pre-hire assessment exercise is a common way of whittling down your candidate list. It can also potentially provide a great deal of useful information about skills, working preferences, motivation and aspirations, and personal characteristics.

All this information can be fed into your selection process with a more informed hiring decision in mind, matching it against a template containing far more than just education and references requirements. This is more likely to result in recruits who are better problem-solvers, more motivated and competitive, better communicators, and able to deal more effectively with conflict situations.

Fine-tune your compensation packages

We all know that a key attractor when recruiting is the compensation. And the key question for any position is: Are we offering the right package?

When you have a vacancy, look at the performance of those who have held that position in the past and compare it to their compensation. What impact did those performers have? Did it align with their compensation? In other words, did their contribution to the organization measure up to their reward?

Historical data can help you think about the intended impact and benefit of each role and ensure that you’re offering an appropriate return – generous enough to attract the best talent, yet balanced with your business and budget needs.

Balancing your workforce

Not every employee is full-time. Not every worker is an employee. These days agile organizations are using a balance of employed and contingent talent to meet their fluctuating needs. Knowing which one is best suited to fill a position or project requirement relies on data and analysis.

Using time and attendance and performance information, you can determine which teams or departments are tasked with a workload beyond the team’s capacity to deliver. Is it a full-time issue? If so, there’s a clear need to hire full-time employees to tackle the issue. But if you’re seeing a workload with peaks and troughs, busy times and slow periods, then freelancers or other contingent labor are more likely to be a fit.

Keeping good recruits

A successful hire is more than just the right person for the job – it’s the right person who stays in the job. Turnover statistics, staff engagement data, and exit surveys with departing staff are all crucial sources of information.

Questions to ask include reasons for leaving, length of service or tenure, changes to role prior to departure, changes to compensation, and changes to workload. In essence, you’re identifying what constitutes a “flight risk” in your organizational context. The next step is to apply any trends you discover to refine your recruitment strategy.

Use the assessment process to ask candidates about issues that have driven past employees to leave (these will differ depending on the nature of the work done, the culture of the organization and team, and compensation paid). A potential new hire who ticks all your skills and experience boxes may still be a potential leaver if they match the profile of those who’ve left in the past.

Of course, also be alert for trends or patterns indicating something you may wish to change about your organization!

Dave Foxall has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years and is a regular HRMS World contributor. He writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.