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The human resources department is known for being touchy-feely, but in the age of big data, it’s becoming a bit more cold and analytical. From figuring out what schools to recruit from to what employees should be offered flexible work arrangements, data analytics are helping HR professionals make more informed decisions.

European Pressphoto Agency
Jonah Hill in a scene from ‘Moneyball’.

The success of Oscar nominated film Moneyball isn’t hurting either, said James Raybould, director of insights at LinkedIn. The movie, based on the Michael Lewis book, tells the true story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Using statistical analysis, Beane was able to recruit undervalued baseball players and lead his underfunded baseball club to the playoffs.

“We’re seeing a lot of companies actually aspire to that movie,” he said last week during a panel on big data at the Impact 2012: The Business of Talent conference convened by consulting group Bersin & Associates. “How do I make Moneyball for HR?”

Capital One, the credit card company and bank, has automated data reports on employee attrition, headcount and promotions. It is also beginning to analyze the characteristics of its most successful employees, like what schools they went to and what their majors were, said Mark Williams, statistical analysis manager for workforce analytics at Capital One. “Now we’re going back through resumes and creating a lot of that data,” he said.

In the wake of the financial crisis, when the compensation structure of many banks were criticized for incentivizing excessive risk-taking, Williams has also been asked to do an analysis of how pay is linked to sales performance.

“We do risk very well; we don’t lend to people who won’t pay us back…. Part of that is we have really good governance over our credit models; we have a staff of statisticians and that’s their job,” he said. “What I’m looking to do is a very similar thing in creating a governance process around some of the risk metrics for compensation.”

The big data revolution is just beginning to penetrate the HR industry, said Josh Bersin, chief executive and president of Bersin & Associates. Some companies have a progressive view of how data analytics can help their HR departments. Most don’t. “Of the companies we talk to, five to 15% are very sophisticated at analyzing people data,” he said.

At Luxottica Group, the Milan-based eyeglasses conglomerate, data analytics have disproven assumptions about gaps within the company’s recruiting strategy, said Sean Dineen, vice president of talent management and organizational development.

The data showed it took an average 96 days to fill a position with an external candidate. The management team believed that the company’s recruiters acted too slow, but a statistical analysis found hiring managers dragged their feet about making decisions about who to hire, Dineen said. It now takes the company 46 days to hire external candidates.

Luxottica, the parent company of brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley, is also using analytics to see how well it is does in promoting its best employees. “Are we actually moving high potential people?” he said. “Why is this person [who rates highly] in the way we evaluate talent in the same job they were four years ago?”

Joseph Walker covers technology for FINS.com, The Wall Street Journal’s jobs and career website.

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Each January, Los Angeles is effervescent with anticipation, as the world’s biggest stars gather to participate in a flurry of parties, dinners and events in the walk-up to the Golden Globes, marking the beginning of the awards season. This year was no exception.

TIME’s annual Oscars portfolio showcases each year’s best performers through a portfolio of striking portraits. Tears, giggles, pranks and emotions ran high, and loads of laughter pealed through the studio during this year’s shoot, which resulted in a series of images and short films photographed and directed by Sebastian Kim. It was our most ambitious Oscars shoot yet. We had just three days to photograph and film 12 world-class actors during their busiest time of the year.

George Clooney arrived early on set, but it didn’t take long for the actor to settle in and begin joking around and planning pranks with Michael Fassbender, who had recently been photographed by Kim for the February issue of Interview magazine. This previous experience of working together made for a great rapport between them. And it wasn’t the only happy reunion on set: Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer happily embraced upon seeing each other on our set, giving us a glimpse of the fun these two had while working together on The Help. Later, Adepero Oduye was brought to tears when introduced by Joel Stein, who was on hand to interview the actors, to Davis, one of her greatest heroes. “It was so unbelievably Hollywood and yet really real,” Stein says.

Kim says that the project was the most star-studded he’s photographed so far. “I was quite excited photographing Meryl Streep,” he says, noting that his girlfriend is a big fan of the actress’s, “so naturally I was quite nervous when I met her. Being nervous on set is not a good thing as it impedes your concentration, but I just kept thinking, ‘My gosh…I better a get a good shot of her and make my girlfriend happy!’”

But Kim needn’t have been nervous. Streep was running a bit late, having arrived from a previous shoot with MGM studios, where she was taking part in a project to photograph the greatest living actors of our time. She was immediately forgiven—and how could she not be? Streep is kind and gracious, possesses a rare elegance and professionalism that made the photo shoot feel like anything but work. In fact, this set the tone for all of our actors’ portraits, which also included sittings with Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Christopher Plummer, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Jean Dujardin, as well as the adorable Uggie, the dog in The Artist.

It’s a rare pleasure to watch actors of this caliber play for the camera. Instead of characters, they play themselves, with a focus and passion that can only come from years of experience on set.

The performers’ interviews with Joel Stein can be viewed here.

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Meryl Streep, 1990


Meryl Streep, 1984


Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro, "Falling In Love", New York, NY, 1984


Meryl Streep and William Styron, "Sophies Choice", New York, NY, 1983


Meryl Streep, 1993


Kate Winslet, "Mildred Pierce", Brooklyn, NY, 2010


Martin Scorsese, "Hugo", London, England, 2010


Johnny Depp, Los Angeles, CA, 2009


Keira Knightley on Set of "Last Night"


Sam Worthington on Set of "Last Night"


Keira Knightley on Set of "Last Night"


Keira Knightley on Set of "Last Night"


Keira Knightley on Set of "Last Night"


Javier Bardem, Toronto, ON, 2007


Michael Fassbender, 2011


Kate Winslet and Ann Roth, "Mildred Pierce", Brooklyn, NY, 2010


Laura Linney, "The Big C", Stamford, CT, 2010


"Shutter Island", Boston, MA, 2008


"Nine", Cinecitta, Rome, Italy, 2009


Penelope Cruz and Daniel Day-Lewis, "Nine", Cinecitta, Rome, Italy, 2009


Tilda Swinton, New York, NY, 2009


Rachel Weisz, Toronto Film Festival, 2011


Salma Hayek, Toronto Film Festival, 2011


Woody Harrelson and Robin Wright, Toronto Film Festival, 2011


Bennett Miller, Jonah Hill, Chris Pratt, & Brad Pitt, Toronto Film Festival, 2011


Isabella Rossellini and Elettra Wiedemann, New York Magazine, August 22, 2011


Jude Law and Matt Damon


Paris


Jordan


Cuba


Senegal


Keira Knightley


Liev Schreiber, New York, NY, 2009


Sacha Baron Cohen and Martin Scorsese, "Hugo", London, England, 2010


Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes", Brooklyn, NY, 2009


Audrey Tatou, "Coco Avant Chanel", Paris, France, 2008


Kara Walker, Brooklyn , NY, 2008


Bob Dylan


Nina Chanel Abney, New York, NY, 2009


Donna Karan, New York, NY, 2009


Maya Angelou, Winsten-Salem, NC, 2009


Twiggy and Kate Moss, London, UK, 1999

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