Canadian government moves to predictive HR

A new feature added to SAS Institute’s Human Capital Management software promises to identify employees scoping out other opportunities.

According to SAS, the Web-based software uses data-mining techniques to calculate the groups of

employees most likely to leave an organization. It determines which organizational and employee characteristics, such as salary, level of education and training or length of service, contribute to turnover. Employees are ranked and assigned individual probabilities for voluntarily leaving within a specific time frame.

The software is intended to help public and private sector organizations deal with the predicted skills shortage over the next decade. According to Statistics Canada, almost 20 per cent of Canadians will be at least 61 by 2011, leading to thousands of retirements and ensuring staffing shortages.

Gary J. Love, senior program manager at SAS Canada, said the software is especially important for the public sector in helping to retain long-time, highly-skilled employees who are difficult to replace.

“”They have found they cannot afford to lose people of that experience without training other people to come in and backfill them,”” said Love. “”But it’s applicable across industries and departments.””

Love said the software works by gathering information on employees across multiple data systems such as financial, human resources and payroll.

“”It accesses that data and turns that information into intelligence through the use of analytics,”” said Love. “”It analyses it and looks for trends and it can run certain scenarios given past behaviours.””

He said the U.S. Census Bureau, which was not available for comment, is using the tool with 80 per cent accuracy.

The software is also being used at several Canadian government agencies that have insisted on non-disclosure agreements, due to the potentially negative view some employees might have of the tool.

“”I think it’s viewed as a competitive advantage when it comes to retaining their employees and hiring the best employees,”” he said.

“”If you told some employees (their employer is) using this some people might get a little nervous.””

However, he added, the software is not intended to help with downsizing or replace the decision-maker.

“”It’s meant to augment existing policies and various procedures you have in HR to look out for these things.””

But while using such a tool can help government IT departments in their retention strategies, said one HR expert, it can’t be the only one in their arsenal.

“”It’s always great to measure something before you try to fix it,”” said David Perry, acting chair of the Canadian Technology Human Resources Board and managing partner of Ottawa-based executive recruitment firm LPerry Martel International. But, he added, “”It’s not as simple as measuring groups because of how much money they make or how old they are; you have to be able to measure how they feel about an organization and how they feel about the culture of an organization.””

Perry, whose firm helps government agencies design human capital recruitment and retention plans, particularly for IT staff, said while software such as SAS’s may be useful for some very large government IT shops, successful recruitment and plans have to start with a strategic human capital plan.

“”That’s a comprehensive review of the workforce requirements necessary for fulfilling the agency’s mission, whatever that mission happens to be, and many government agencies have a long way to go to produce a reliable and meaningful plan,”” he said.

Instead of looking at recruitment and retention in quantitative terms, advised Perry, the government should take a more qualitative approach. IT organizations can actually be more productive with fewer staff –- as long as they’re the right staff, he argues.

The right staff is made up of A and B players, he said. The A players are those “”through dint of a really unusual skill”” while the B players are those with an unusually high productivity rate.

“”The government can do more with less but only if they know who their A and B players are and why they stay or why they go,”” said Perry.

Comment: [email protected]

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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