Competitive Intelligence from the HR Vantage Point, Part 2

In Part 1 of this article series, I talked about the value of competitive intelligence (CI) from the HR vantage point. Here in Part 2, I’ll talk about how to collect, analyze, and communicate CI so you can improve your strategic value to your organization. How to Collect CI There are two types of data collection methods: primary and secondary. Primary data collection involves collecting data from scratch. It is collected in response to a specific issue and the results are organized. The most common primary tools include face-to-face interviews, phone interviews, and web-based surveys. Great examples of primary data collection are new hire surveys and interviews with employees that have worked for the competition. New hires provide a valuable source of information because of their recent experience as both a candidate and an employee of their previous company. Online surveys provide an efficient method for collecting information; they make it very easy to perform your analysis because they are database driven, and the results can be easily communicated and shared via a web page or email. Face-to-face interviews can provide more information, especially anecdotal, but require more time and effort to administer. The results can also be more difficult to manage. If your organization is not currently using these types of tools then it will be well worth your time to get started. You will be amazed what you learn and how that information can add value to your organization. Secondary data collection involves using data that has been collected for other purposes. Examples of secondary tools include trade associations, professional institutes and organizations, previously gathered marketing research, national and local industry publications, and analysts’ reports. Some effective secondary research tools may be presentations from industry trade shows that were given by your competition, analysts’ opinions on your competitions’ financial reports, and HR vendor case studies involving your competition. The goal should always be to collect primary data because it is tailored to your needs. However, it is important not to overlook secondary methods, which can open your eyes to new ideas and sometimes be more valuable than primary methods. How To Analyze and Communicate CI Once you have collected the information, you must analyze and communicate the findings to someone who can use the results. Many organizations fall short on these last two steps and the value of the competitive intelligence they gather is never realized. Data analysis involves a person with knowledge of the data looking for patterns within pieces of information and developing potential scenarios that will be used for HR decision-making and communication to other management. Examples: Based on analysis of data collected by HR through our new hire surveys, we have found:

  • “[Competitor Name] is in the process of hiring [type of talent] to help build a [Product Name or Division] which will compete with our [Product Name or Division].”
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  • “[Competitor Name] uses an internal system called [System Name] which is similar to our [Internal System Name], except they use web services to communicate in real-time with their branch managers. Within [Competitor Name] they say this has saved them $1 million.”

And the list continues. Imagine the types of data you could collect from the questions identified in Part 1 of this article series. Once the analysis is finished, organize the results in a form that your management will respond to (charts, presentations, etc.), step up to the plate, and swing for the fences. One easy way to jumpstart your CI communication is to find a communication process that is working within your company and incorporate CI into its content. For your organization it may be a manager-level email or a weekly meeting. Build a relationship with the coordinators to ensure CI from the HR vantage point is included. You can also directly communicate to the division heads and other leadership through a newsletter, email, or formal presentation. In order to gain visibility for your efforts, make sure any communication is stamped with “HR Competitive Intelligence” or something similar. Effectively communicated CI will help align HR with the business strategy, make HR an integral part of the decision-making process, and allow HR to directly impact your organization’s competitive advantage. What Next? Find out who in your organization is responsible for managing CI for your other functions, such as sales and marketing. Next, schedule time with them and ask them what their process is for collecting, analyzing, and communicating the competitive intelligence they manage. The idea is to get involved with that effort and educate them on the type of information you can bring to the table. As you can see above and from Part 1, you are not empty-handed. If you do not have a CI function then you have a tremendous opportunity to directly impact the bottom line of your organization and increase the business value of HR. Create your own communication process and target the senior leadership with the results of your analysis. Their feedback will then drive your efforts and future strategies.

Ethan Gill ( is chief strategy officer for Talent Advantage. He is a member of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) and SHRM, and has led business strategy and competitive intelligence efforts for multiple organizations. Talent Advantage is a consulting, recruiting services, and research firm focused on optimizing HR's strategic position within an organization. Talent Advantage's Competitive Intelligence Service (CIS) is tailored specifically for human resource departments and provides the critical insight required to create and maintain world-class HR functions.


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