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LinkedIn connects big data, human resources

Sarah Halzack (via Washington Post/ SMH) | Aug. 13, 2013
As the network grows moment by moment, LinkedIn's rich trove of information also grows more detailed and more comprehensive.

Dan Shapero, LinkedIn's vice president of talent solutions and insights, says the firm can help its corporate clients understand how they're stacking up against rivals when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.
Dan Shapero, LinkedIn's vice president of talent solutions and insights, says the firm can help its corporate clients understand how they're stacking up against rivals when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.Photo: Washington Post

Every second, more than two more people join LinkedIn's network of 238 million members.

They are head hunters in search of talent. They are the talent in search of a job. And sometimes, the career site for the professional class is just a hangout for the well-connected worker.

LinkedIn, using complex, carefully concocted algorithms, analyses their profiles and site behaviour to steer them to opportunity. And corporations parse that data to set business strategy. As the network grows moment by moment, LinkedIn's rich trove of information also grows more detailed and more comprehensive.

It's big data meeting human resources. And that data, core to LinkedIn's potential, could catapult the company beyond building careers and into the realms of education, urban development and economic policy.

Chief executive Jeff Weiner put it this way in a recent blog post: "Our ultimate dream is to develop the world's first economic graph," a sort of digital map of skills, workers and jobs across the global economy.

Ambitions, in other words, that are a far cry from the industry's early stabs at modernising the old-fashioned jobs board.

So far, LinkedIn's data-driven strategy appears to be working: It turned its highest-ever profit in the second quarter, $US364 million, and its stock price has grown sixfold since its 2011 initial public offering. Because its workforce has doubled in a year, it's fast outgrowing its Mountain View headquarters, just down the street from Google. In 2014, it'll move into Yahoo's neighbourhood with a new campus in Sunnyvale.

The company makes money three ways: members who pay for premium access; ad sales; and its gold mine, a suite of products created by its talent solutions division and sold to corporate clients, which accounted for $US205 million in revenue last quarter.

When LinkedIn staffers talk about their network and products, they often refer to an "ecosystem". It's an apt metaphor, because the value of their offerings would seem to rely heavily on equilibrium.

LinkedIn's usefulness to recruiters is deeply contingent on the quality and depth of its membership base. And its usefulness to members depends on the quality of their experience on the site. LinkedIn's success, then, depends largely on its ability to do more than just amass new members. The company must get its users to maintain comprehensive, up-to-date profiles, and it must give them a reason to visit the site frequently.

 

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