Human Capital Intelligence takes recruiting research to a whole new level. For too long, the executive search and recruiting industry had equated research with “name generation” or “candidate identification”, as if names were all that mattered. The linguistic frame dated back to the days when leadership directories were hard-bound, and when women — either secretaries or research associates — did most of the recruiting research. It required a lot of data entry, a lot of attention to detail, and thus the research that identified and developed candidates was viewed as women’s work. Eventually, the whole industry build research processes that focused almost exclusively on target company and candidate lists. The recruiting industry had settled for a two-dimensional approach to research when other industries had moved on to adopt a third, if not fourth, dimension.
Human Capital Intelligence Starts with Computer-Assisted Research
Intellerati first came to life a little more than a decade ago as the nation’s first investigative recruiting research practice. We saw an opportunity to change the game. By 1999, I had harnessed the power of computer-assisted research in previous work as an investigative journalist. My interest had been inspired by the groundbreaking work of investigative reporter Bill Dedman in a brilliant series of articles he wrote for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution entitled “The Color of Money”. In fact, his work was so genius it won a Pulitzer Prize. Before that series, reporters could never prove that lending institutions in Atlanta were racially discriminating against prospective borrowers. Lenders would refuse to lend money or extend credit to borrowers in an illegal practice known as redlining, as if they’d all drawn a red line around certain “struggling” areas of town.
Before Bill came along, all reporters could do was offer up anecdotal evidence, such as interviews with African Americans with excellent credit and high income, who were inexplicably denied a loan. The lending institutions would always claim those instances were the exception. But then Bill elevated the game. The banks and savings and loans institutions were required to report the location of each loan they issued by census tract under the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. So Bill used the federal Freedom of Information Act to obtain the lenders’ reports on computer tape from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, a federal agency. He then matched the lending data with demographic data from the U.S. census and with more current information from the Atlanta Regional Commission. By mashing thee data sets together, he caught the redlining lenders red-handed. Bill proved blacks are rejected more than twice as often as whites when they apply for home loans at America’s savings and loans, according to government records of $1 trillion in loan applications analyzed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
So what does this have to do with recruiting? Everything. Research, real research, is not a name, or a Google search term, or a LinkedIn connection. It not a job board, or a tracking system, or a database full of resumes. Rather, research is the thing by which we harness the power of our Age of Information. It requires computer-assisted research expertise, because our data are kept in binary zeros and ones in myriad database platforms. Serious power sourcing leverages the power of databases to do what previously has never been possible before. It involves strategy and in involves analysis — critical thinking — to transform random bits of data into actionable intelligence. That intelligence helps us get to the winning candidate faster and better. But it does so much more than that. The study of the talent ecosystem also holds the power to inform the investments of private equity, venture capital, and corporate merger & acquisition teams, transactions typically worth ten, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. So, the next time your organization focuses obsessively on cost-per-hire to define your ROI and raison d’être, remember that human capital intelligence done well can result in much more lucrative dividends.