Equifax Is a Big Data Company - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

Talx is really good at moving, handling, processing and managing great big hunks of data.

Talx and eThority Set Big Data Standards for HR

I spent much of this week getting to know the team behind Talx. Five years into being owned by Equifax, the St. Louis stalwart is beginning a metamorphosis. Being inside the Equifax firewall gives Talx (and Equifax) some very interesting market opportunities.

If you’re not familiar with Talx, they are a friendly, midwestern company with headquarters in St. Louis. The company offers a basket of Talent Acquisition and Payroll services including.

  • Assessments (a huge library of tools)
  • Onboarding
  • I-9 Management
  • Tax Credits and Incentives
  • Paperless Pay
  • W-2 Management
  • Employment Verifications
  • Unemployment Cost Management
  • Reemployment Services
  • Data Breach Solutions
  • Employment Tax Services

It’s pretty dry stuff. Talx is really good at moving, handling, processing and managing great big hunks of data, particularly the stuff associated with tax compliance, tax incentives, and employment verification. You know, the sort of stuff that would drive any sensible person crazy. The stuff that is at the heart of the transactional parts of HR.

Talx helps streamline the processes that are at the heart of HR.

The beating heart of the Talx ecosystem is “the work number“. 50,000 organizations use the work number to verify employment information. There are nearly 50 Million employee files in the system. As the company moves forward, new products will be tied to this core data asset. (50 Million is about 1/3 of the workforce).

By itself, Talx was an extraordinary data asset. Imagine that all of the information associated with the 11 services listed above were collected in a single database. If you could figure out how to sort and sift it, all sorts of things would be possible.

Now, think about Equifax. You know, the credit reporting people. With credit data for 85% of Americans (and a variety of other monstrous databases of the stuff that isn’t reported in credit files like phone bills, utility bills and so on). Historically, the Equifax customer was a financial institution. Equifax knows so much about the financial behavior of the people who make up our economy that the CEO is a regular in the halls of financial power.

In order to grow significantly, however, Equifax needed to stretch beyond the boundaries of banking and into the rest of the commercial universe. While the enterprise is tightly regulated by the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA), that simply limits what can be done with data that discloses the identity of individuals. Equifax is perfectly free (and able) to mine their data treasure trove for aggregate information. (In some of the examples I was given, an aggregate group could be as small as the members of a 9 digit zip code group.)

Now think about the Talx database again.

The first amazing thing is that Equifax has a series of bits an pieces of credit behavioral data for virtually every person who has a file in the Talx system. While the FCRA prohibits using credit data in very significant ways (including the fact that it always has to be anonymized except under very specific circumstances). So Equifax can’t simply sell businesses credit data about their clients.

But, they can sell the aggregate data.

For instance, Talx uses the data to help customers understand the leverage they have in a variety of settings. Talx can tell you the total indebtedness of your workforce. They can give you averages and data on subsets. One emerging service offers insight into student loan debt as a way of identifying retention leverage. Another project shows employers the car loan volume i the workforce creating the opportunity for the company to cut a money saving deal with a financial institution for lower car load rates. (a nice, inexpensive new benefit)

All of the data integration and analysis is being channeled through the eThority technology that Talx bought last fall. This week, the company rolled out “Elements” which is the talxified version of eThority.

If you want to understand how big data will transform HR, start by watching Talx and Equifax

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  • Jimmie Ekvall

    Scary. If i boost my dept to look like a loyal employee of the future (if that is the relationship) I might get just over the edge and end up in on the fraud watch-list.

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