Large companies now harness data to assess employees’ productivity, but in the future they might use it to anticipate an employee’s performance before he/she has even done any work.
That is one of a number of insights into emerging analytical technology in a recent article by Steve Bates of the Society for Human Resource Management.
Brian Kelly, the senior director of strategy for Ultimate Software, told SHRM that his technology can help organizations assess the probability of a prospective employee leaving the company based on a number of personality factors.
Predictive analytics can also guide managers to hire workers whose personalities fit the mission of the company as well as to craft workplace policies and culture that will be appreciated by employees.
Other uses include preventing workplace injuries or identifying inefficient processes, including meetings or office layouts that inhibit communication.
Many large companies already have data operations and access to experts who can guide them on what numbers they should be gathering and how they can use them. But for many other firms, putting big data to use is a major challenge. A KPMG study last year found that 55 percent of company executives cited not knowing what data they should be collecting as the top obstacle to adopting predictive analytics.
The shift to data-based decisions in corporate management means that strong personalities might be less dominant in shaping the agenda if they don’t have numbers to back up their proposals. Obviously, that shift will reward some and marginalize others.
"Give us another 10 years,” Paolo Gaudiano, president of Icosystem, told SHRM. “My suspicion is that it will catch on like wildfire.”
Some uses of workplace analytics will inevitably provoke controversy. For instance, Forbes reported earlier this year that a number of employers have begun tracking employee pregnancies by looking through insurance claims and even internet search queries. Outside consultants will analyze the data and inform employers of what percentage of their workforce is either trying to get pregnant or already expecting a child.
As employers gain the ability to deduce such sensitive information about their workers, there will undoubtedly be political pressure to put limits on what type of information employers can analyze and what they can use the information to do.