“How do you build on an existing relationship?”

That’s the question Dr. Elisa Lynch asked job candidates at a CEO meeting.

“We have three candidates. They get an interview. But who gets the final interview?” Dr. Lynch asks.

What she’s asking the job candidates is crucial: Who has an internal relationship with the CEO? Who could credibly convince the boss of their own skills in a crisis? Can a worker leverage that personal relationship to get the role?

“We need to talk about how HR doesn’t have to isolate itself and really have a critical lens. And one of the things that the Learning Network Foundation is doing is making sense of data that meets those criteria, so HR has a role to help the organization,” says Dr. Lynch.

It’s a common dilemma. Human resources departments live in a world of data analysis, getting clear answers to survey questions about their experiences and preferences. That’s all good. But what happens next? Is HR given autonomy to act on data, or does its role merely mirror that of sales and marketing, with metrics that have little to do with hiring–but that helps the bottom line?

Leaders are asking big questions about the future of HR.

Those leaders are encouraged by the idea that new-age HR is smart about managing people. “How can you measure what companies need when you haven’t used a lot of data,” says Dr. Lynch.

But what about leveraging data to add to the human capital mix in human resources? What about using data to assemble solutions for clients who can’t afford top HR talent? How can it be measured?

These are the kinds of questions HR leaders are considering as the Learning Network Foundation launches its GoodTHROES Machine Learning Technologies Venture Fund, a business development initiative.

The research and development initiative could become the innovation strategy for the Human Capital and Management Association.

With its annual conference expected to draw more than 1,600 HCM professionals, the HCM industry is especially well suited to use this new tool.

“If you want to actually apply machine learning to these disparate sets of data, there’s not much else you can do,” says Jed Kim, president of GoodTHROES. “We are beginning to see machine learning become part of the mainstream, and part of the daily vocabulary of your users.”

The GoodTHROES tool was created by HR and data scientists to understand people to help recruiters and other HR professionals understand the people they want to hire, and how to hire them.