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“Social intelligence can fundamentally change the way we do business.”






If I was... making the case for ‘social intelligence’ in managing talent

Financial Times

29 January 2014


PA puts itself in the position of someone having to make the case for a radical new way of managing talent: 

I would start by stressing that all companies need to be able to find, attract and retain the right talent. All HR directors know how difficult it is to achieve these goals. So I would say it is time to try a new approach: applying social intelligence.

This means analysing social media conversations to identify ideal candidates and then creating a personal experience that would make them want to join and stay with the business.

Social intelligence gives us a detailed understanding of a person’s interests, behaviours and personality. I would say that we could use this to develop the profile – or “social genotypes” – of our ideal candidate. 

Our HR teams could use these social genotypes to find candidates with the attitudes and behaviours suitable for specific roles. 

I would describe how social genotypes could also replace traditional personality testing and reduce the distortion that occurs when participants tailor their answers to reflect what they think an employer wants to hear. 

I would also argue that genotyping allows us to look at individuals’ historic social data to determine consistency and gain insights into specific behaviours that traditional competency-based measures don’t take into consideration. For example, candidates might use membership of social media groups to demonstrate their skills and interests relevant to the role and I would be pointing out that social intelligence can show how influential and active they actually are in these groups, to measure how they work in a team. 

In making my case, I would argue that social intelligence could be used to identify negative behaviour, which could be added to a risk profile, balanced against positive factors such as creativity. We could also use social intelligence to identify behaviour that reflects an individual’s dissatisfaction towards their existing company, providing advance warning that they are considering leaving. 

This would enable our recruiters to take early action and target candidates looking for a move and with a genuine interest in the role. 

I would then show that once we have identified the perfect candidates, we can use social intelligence to personalise what we offer them, to increase the likelihood of them joining. We could look at their social genotype “cluster” to see what they will typically “like” on social media and use this to design a tailored employment package. 

The next challenge I would address is retention and understanding what employees really want from their jobs. Expensive traditional surveys are one source of feedback but I would say that using social intelligence would enable us to make an anonymous analysis of employees’ social conversations, giving us insight into their happiness, satisfaction and what is important to them. 

This would allow the early identification of emerging themes and the spotting of trends, for example regarding new skills and technologies. This would give us the opportunity to make our staff feel cared for by offering them relevant training. 

Alternatively, if we see our people discussing challenges with their work-life balance, such as finding it difficult to pick up their children from school, we could consider offering more flexible work options.

Finally, I would make my case by giving the example of a large outsourcing company that used data modelling to identify activity around key terms used by employees that implied dissatisfaction at work. This enabled it to pick up individuals’ intention to leave two months before they handed in their notice. 

This gave the company time to address the issues and persuade their people to stay. 


For more information on PA’s expertise in social intelligence analysis or how to use social intelligence to gain commercial advantage please click here or contact us now.


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