So it’s that special day of year again, when we are able to celebrate love by going out for an over-priced set meal and giving each other heart shaped pieces of junk.  Call me a cynic, but I’ve often thought that the people who most feel the love on this day are the shareholders of Clintons Cards.  Nonetheless, Valentine’s Day continues to be long standing tradition for the world’s couples.   What is less traditional these days is how many of these couples will have met. 

Recent research by eHarmony found that 27% of today’s couples met each other through an online dating or meeting service, and predicts that this will be 70% by 2040.  The reason for this has been mainly attributed to the rise in access to the internet and the use of smart phones, making it easier than ever for strangers to connect.  Just another example of how digital technologies are changing the world and the way we do things.  This got me wondering; how are these technologies changing the way we ‘hook up’ at work? 

Any savvy business professional now has a LinkedIn profile, which basically took the premise of social networking and applied it to the business world.  However, LinkedIn hasn’t just created a professional network, it has created a global talent pool which allows companies to tap into that all important passive candidate and enables proactive talent sourcing.  It also uses the information in members’ profiles to highlight jobs which are likely to be of interest.  In essence, it connects organisations with prospective talent and talent with prospective organisations.  And LinkedIn is just one of many platforms connecting professionals through data insight.  For example, KnowHowMart is a website which connects professionals with businesses for one-off advice, and Glassdoor contains employee generated insight into jobs and companies.  

Organisations are also now beginning to apply the power of social media technologies for the benefit of wider talent management – both internally as well as externally.  Many of the new SaaS platforms such as Orcale Fusion HCM and SuccessFactors provide the opportunity to collate and model substantial amounts of employee (and potential employee) data.  It is even possible for these systems to plug into external platforms such as LinkedIn. 

As a result, HR is finally able to start playing in a truly strategic space by not only providing diagnostic information, but also predicting trends and outcomes.  For example, combining data on performance, pay progression, external benchmarks, survey feedback, and activity on external recruitment sites like LinkedIn could indicate a level of attrition risk.

This functionality can also be applied to internal talent moves.  What if there was a more sophisticated ‘matching’ service that was based on more than just experience and interest?   Dating site eHarmony makes informed relationship matches through a sophisticated compatibility questionnaire.  Just as we know the success of romantic relationships depends on more than just attraction and being ‘right on paper’, success in role is also down to behaviours and values as well as qualifications.  Theoretically, it is possible to combine the power of assessment, surveys, talent and social data to create a recommended job match.
Yet, whilst there is huge potential for HR to make this step change and use the power of data for strategic insight and decision making, recent research by Capgemini found there are a number of barriers to making this a reality.  The primary issue is that traditional HR systems are not set up to support this, with almost 70% saying they have integration issues.  It’s perhaps not surprising then that close to 50% of companies surveyed in Capgemini’s 2013 Global HR Barometer Report said they are considering changing their HR system.

Though we may not see the shift overnight, it is clear that if HR can start embracing the time of online and big data it may finally have a credible seat at strategic board table.  And with all the new technology available, it’s an exciting time for HR to get creative about how it does this.  It just needs to be bold enough to make the investment and convince business leaders of the potential. 

Who knows, in 5 years when a line manager says, “Sally is a fantastic addition to the team, she has the skills and she is a perfect cultural fit.  Where did you find her?” That line manager might say, “We met on”.