Stephen Baker

The Boost
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Google's algorithms for human resources

May 19, 2009Datamining

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is using algorithms to identify employees most likely to leave. (I wrote a related article in March.) I was interested in the comments, like this one from Ana Wood:

It seems that more and more companies are investing in external systems to predict or better manage human capital. Through the years, I have practiced a simple action – connecting with people at every level of the organization through a “hello, how do you do?” and waiting for the person receiving this message to answer.

I don't know about you, but if I'm unhappy and thinking about leaving, I probably don't spill it to a manager who comes by and asks me, "How do you do?" But the problem with Ana's objection, I think, is the assumption that a company relies entirely on either data mining or personal interactions. Seems to me that if Google's algorithm can identify 100 employees most likely to leave, then it might be time for a manager to approach them and engage in some old-fashioned talk.

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