Is LinkedIn a Business Intelligence Tool?

Anything is a business intelligence tool if you try hard and believe in yourself.

In doing your due diligence, your team might find itself shelling out thousands in licenses and subscriptions to BI tools. But there’s one that’s especially useful, and your company might already be paying for it. LinkedIn Premium, a sales team staple, is more than a way to find leads and opportunities.

For our little demonstration, we’ll use Uber, the quintessential troubled American unicorn. Over the past few years, the company’s undergone every possible scandal. You want legal problems? They’ve got ’em! Sexual harassment? In spades! Manslaughter? Manslaughter. But the brand has built itself into a verb (you “take” a taxi to the airport, but you can “Uber” there, too), and its tendrils have reached into pet transport, food delivery, self-driving cars, and now proprietary AI that can tell when a user is drunk.

What can LinkedIn tell us about this ailing behemoth? Let’s check some charts.

Growth

Is a company beefing up its team after an infusion of capital? Is growth steady? Are they hemorrhaging employees? Growth and growth rates can tell you a lot about a company, especially for startups. It can signal irresponsible spending or worrying cutbacks, or reflect steady success.

The past two years show steady growth and then a drop off as Uber prepares for its IPO. Certain roadblocks — negative press over the company’s work culture, its treatment of female engineers, and the #deleteuber movement, and shake-ups in senior staff, among others — contributed to a considerable lag in growth from Q3 2017 and onward.

Who does what

LinkedIn offers a good breakdown of exactly where a company is growing. Growth by department tells a story. It makes sense that Uber, a company that’s expanding into new markets would be hiring more operations (many of them seem to be in Uber Eats in East Asian countries), and it makes sense that an app that’s investing in new technology would hire more engineers. A company in crisis might see an uptick in HR or PR personnel, and a company seeing rapid growth might beef up its sales team.

When were they brought in

The chart gives a helpful breakdown of the information from the first pie chart, but what’s especially telling here is the little gold caps — senior management hires. For Uber, who’s been hemorrhaging senior management since problematic CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down due to board pressure, this graph is especially telling. And when a company is reportedly seeing stagnation but showing an uptick in new hires for the same time, it shows that turnover is high. No less than six people left senior posts at Uber since February 2018, and the scramble to replace is reflected in the graph.

Who they’ve been looking for

The total job openings graph tells an interesting story. If the company uses LinkedIn to hire and recruit, it’ll have lots and lots of relevant data to pull from. Usually the numbers aren’t this extreme — it’s rare to see a 1000%+ leap in open positions in an established company. But what’s telling here is that while all other positions rose and fell, engineering positions have been relatively steady — and have seen the slightest decline in the past three months.

And who’s already there

In LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can find leads…or anyone else at the company. The function lists every employee connected to a company on LinkedIn, and sorts them by location, industry, function, title, seniority level, and more. You can see who changed jobs within the last three months, who shares a history with you, and who’s been mentioned in the news.

For teeny startups (under 30 or so people), you won’t see the graphs above. Instead, you can find the same information in the Sales Navigator. By searching by function, you can see how many people fill each role, and calculate how R&D- or sales-heavy the company is.

You can also see just how many people work at a startup’s satellite branch, and what they do. Let’s say a tech company has locations in New York and London listed on their website, but LinkedIn has a dozen company employees located in Belarus, all of them in IT and engineering. It tells you who’s outsourcing and to whom.

In Uber’s case, a quick search shows that a whole lot of employees located in India changed their jobs within the last 90 days, and many are tech recruiters and software developers. Knowing that Uber is making moves to expand new offerings to the Indian market, this makes a lot of sense.

It ain’t perfect

LinkedIn has its limitations, too. There are countries where the networking platform is less popular, and won’t accurately reflect employee counts. Some companies recruit through other platforms, and won’t have all the data. And there’s always human error and self-inflation — people who forget to update their profiles after moving on, and lower-level managers who brand themselves as VPs.

For companies like Uber whose labor force is mostly contractors rather than employees, it’s hard to tell who works at the company and who works for the company. The company had about 12,000 employees circa 2017, but the Sales Navigator lists about four times that number of profiles connected to Uber. Of those, 2,575 are listed as working in the “transportation/trucking/railroad” industry. Some are employees in the Uber Freight division. Others list themselves as drivers, “self-employed,” or just “uber” — the ones who offer the actual driving service.

Even with the drawbacks, LinkedIn is an insightful, convenient, and comparatively cheap BI tool. Now, armed with this knowledge, when you’re caught looking for new jobs at work, you can pass it off as research.