Q&A: Pierre Berlin: “HR has to adapt to working with data”

Author: Cathryn Newbery | Date: 27 Oct 2015

LinkedIn’s sales director of Talent Solutions says data insights are key to working more strategically

Pierre Berlin - profileIf anyone should know how technology is reshaping the HR function, it’s Pierre Berlin, senior director of sales, EMEA, Talent Solutions at LinkedIn. Speaking to People Management at the LinkedIn Talent Connect conference in London last week, he discusses the challenges of attracting nationals back to the region from overseas and how data is reshaping the role of HR.

What talent trends are you seeing in the region?
Hiring and developing nationals is a big challenge in the Middle East. We are working with many administrations in the public sector to help them with this challenge relating to the Arabisation and Emiratisation of the workforce. Local administrations have welcomed us [LinkedIn opened its Dubai office in 2012] because we attract key talent from outside of the Middle East, and bring them into the local talent market.
We help our customers to do exactly the same thing. Say you are the HR director of a Saudi organisation and you want to attract more Saudis into your workforce. The good way to do that is see what schools people have attended outside of Saudi Arabia - such as in the US - and try to attract them to come back to their home country. That’s a trend we are seeing in many countries, and not just in the Middle East: we see that in European countries such as Ireland, too.
Are there any specific skills that are in high demand?
The needs of organisations in the Middle East are so big that I would say we have customers in every sector. Of course in oil and gas and public administration, but also in services and the retail sector. And with the 2020 Expo in Dubai expected to create an additional 275,000 jobs, this need is going to grow even greater. Put simply, there is a need in every type of job.
How are HR professionals in the region using data analytics?
Data is transforming the HR function from more of a support function into a strategic function. For example, if an organisation wins a tender in South Africa, and the key questions were: should I build a factory there? What is the talent pool like? HR can use data to understand the scope of the talent pool, and if it might be better to build the factory in a different country - and to make a recommendation to their internal customers.
Data also helps HR to understand where talent is coming from - which universities, countries - and which competitor organisations they might be joining instead. These people, who for example used to go straight from university to work in a bank, might be going to the likes of Google instead. Why? Data can help to explain that. HR has to adapt themselves to working with data and realise that it can help them bring much more value to the table.
Is the use of data improving the credibility of the HR profession?
I think HR has always been well-respected, but it’s regarded as more strategic now. I meet with numerous CEOs every month, because the value [of working with data] is huge. Organisations are on the frontline of a complex war for talent, and they can’t win without using data and focusing on employer branding. They are all looking for the same people, and it’s hard to access the right talent pool. So when an HR director is socially engaged, is able to get the right insight, and has the ear of the CEO - it changes the nature of the HR director’s job and their personal brand. No longer is he or she just the person who is hiring and firing people: they occupy a much more strategic position in the organisation.