Demystifying talent intelligence to build the modern workforce

Madeline Laurano, Founder and Chief Analyst of Aptitude Research, joins ‘The New Talent Code’ to talk about her research on talent intelligence and how you can start using this HR tech in your organization.

Demystifying talent intelligence to build the modern workforce

  • Transformation isn’t just about deploying new technology. It’s understanding your organization’s goals and seeking HR tech that will empower implementation.
  • Talent intelligence provides the AI-powered insights you need to gain visibility into the skills and potential of your entire workforce.
  • Becoming a skills-based organization requires a holistic approach — determining what you need and investing in partners and tech to help you transform faster than you could alone.

Talent intelligence is bubbling in conversations across industries, but many still aren’t sure exactly what it is. What better way to cut through the noise than to sit down with the analyst who wrote the paper on talent intelligence?

Madeline Laurano is the Founder and Chief Analyst of Aptitude Research
Madeline Laurano, Founder and Chief Analyst, Aptitude Research

Madeline Laurano is the Founder and Chief Analyst of Aptitude Research. She’s spent her career analyzing the human capital market, specializing in applying new strategies in talent acquisition and the employee experience. Her latest research delves into talent intelligence, including how this AI-powered technology can impact organizational performance and employee experience.

In this episode of The New Talent Code, Laurano joins our hosts Ligia Zamora and Jason Cerrato to demystify talent intelligence, including explaining what it is and isn’t, how organizations should be thinking about transformation, and how to move past those initial sticking points of implementation.

Technology as a means, not an end

AI is having a moment — and the world is taking notice. Every organization is evaluating how they could and should be working differently. Laurano sees this disruption as a chance for meaningful reflection in HR.

The HR technology space has undergone massive shifts in recent years, not only with ATS providers, LMS solutions, and HCM suites but now with dozens of vendors offering a host of solutions. This pantheon of HR technology is distracting from the real purpose behind new technology.

“Talent intelligence, strategic workforce planning, or talent planning — all of these are transformations within organizations, and AI can help drive that,” Laurano said. “[But] “transformation is not just using artificial intelligence or buying new technology. It’s thinking about what those outcomes could be and the potential it could bring to the organization. Then we’re having much more meaningful conversations.” 

Related content: Need a new approach for workforce planning? Our latest e-book, Talent-centered design: A blueprint for success in the digital era, explains why you need an entirely new approach built around your talent and their skills to ensure future success.

Setting the record straight on talent intelligence 

Laurano’s goal with Aptitude’s research was to provide clarity about what talent intelligence is and how organizations should think about it — an antidote to buzzwords.

“Talent intelligence is the insights that allow you to see your full workforce and the potential of your workforce,” she said. “It’s using AI. It’s using a skills-based approach to be able to see that full potential, using internal and external data.”

While a traditional system of record contains employee data, it’s static and can’t be used in the same way that AI can use it. 

“Talent intelligence is drawing insights, seeing the full potential of individuals, putting all this in context, and being able to truly understand your workforce,” Laurano said. “That relates to talent acquisition, talent management, and strategic workforce planning. And this is where transformation is happening.” 

Talent intelligence is unique because it’s a technology that can benefit the entire organization, from supporting C-suite objectives, to enhancing employee experiences, to improving recruiting and hiring processes. 

“Talent intelligence is a win-win because not only does it provide organizations with a way to really see and get insight into their workforce and make better decisions around talent, but it also helps individuals have a fair and inclusive opportunity,” Laurano said. “They’re given a fair opportunity to apply for a job and go through that process. They’re given a fair opportunity if they want to change careers, if they want to see what opportunities they have for growth.”

An analyst’s best tips for choosing a vendor

If you’re looking to start your search for a talent intelligence provider, Laurano has some advice. 

“I really encourage companies to look at the full picture,” she said. “You have to look at the company. … What is the deep domain expertise that they have? What is their heritage? How are they looking at AI? Do they have AI experts? Do they have ethics committees?

“A lot of providers are just putting the word skills on everything they do,” she continues. “And they don’t have the real work behind what a skills-based approach is.”

Laurano suggests asking vendors about the breakdown of their workforce when it comes to sales and marketing versus R&D versus customer support. 

“So often, there’s just not a lot of employees on research and development, and I think that says a lot when you’re looking at innovation and when you’re looking at a topic like talent intelligence,” she said.

Getting C-suite buy-in

Talent intelligence is a game changer for recruiters, employees, and managers, but communicating that value to leadership can be difficult. A good inroad? Retention.

Laurano gives the example of employees applying to internal roles. Usually, they can apply through an internal career portal, but that’s where the difference between employees and external candidates ends. “They’re treated like a stranger, and there’s no personalization. There’s no context. There are no insights.”

Laurano and her team did a case study with an organization and found that while 40% of new hires were internal hires (a very high internal mobility rate), 68% of the internal candidates who didn’t get the job left the organization.

With talent intelligence, “not only are you able to really see [the] potential of your talent with internal mobility, but you’re able to then provide an experience to employees to say, ‘OK, we see who you are; we see your potential. We know you have these skills. We’d encourage you to think about these skills. And here are some other opportunities that you might want to consider.’ 

“That doesn’t feel so bad,” she continues. “That feels like, ‘OK, thanks for understanding who I am. I’ve worked for you. And now I’ve got a little bit of work to do, or there’s some people to connect with.’ That’s a relationship.”

How to get ‘unstuck’ in your skills-based transformation

AI, talent intelligence, and skills are exciting concepts, but even after gaining the necessary buy-in, many teams get held up in figuring out where to start. “They don’t know if they should assess their own skills, inventory, and taxonomy and how to approach that or if they should start to look at a provider first,” Laurano said.

She gives this example of where organizational leaders get stuck or mired down in the old way of mapping skills. “Everyone was on board. The messaging was already out, and [then] they said they would have to wait two to three years to do the skills work before they would start to look at technology, and to me, that stuck. That’s not taking a holistic approach to skills. That’s saying, ‘OK, now we’re going to take this piecemeal approach, and we’re going to do skills strategy work. We don’t really know what that is. That’s not dynamic — because you’re not using AI.”

Laurano says organizations must take a holistic approach to a skills-based transformation. 

“That’s what transformation is. It’s saying we’re going to look at the pieces we need. We’re going to look at where we’re at, but we’re going to invest in partners that can help us get there much faster than five years.”

The future of HR tech

While HR is rife with talented professionals, Laurano notes that their workload has doubled or tripled since the pandemic. While technology can help, most of the HR tech market is simply missing the mark. 

“So often solutions are being designed and companies are evaluating solutions that really don’t have an understanding of what recruiters or HR professionals do,” she said. “I think we have to look at what solutions are going to impact and help HR to be those transformers as well. And that’s not going to come from a lot of traditional providers. … It’s going to come from these areas that drive transformation, everything we’ve been talking about: skills, strategic workforce planning, talent planning, AI, talent, intelligence. That’s what drives transformation and what can help HR easily manage all these new responsibilities.” 

Listen to the full episode of ‘The New Talent Code’ with Madeline Laurano on our website or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

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