Should Machines Manage Employees?

By Mike Elgan Print this article Print
Predictive Analytics on Employees

Algorithms can now identify disgruntled employees by predicting when they will cause problems, create scandals, harm the company's reputation or break the law.  

Is This Really a Good Idea?

There's no question that HR predictive analytics is here to stay and is becoming more sophisticated all the time. The critical question for employers is, "What is the best way forward?"

HR predictive analytics can save money, improve employee retention and protect a company from rogue employees. Even more urgent is the fact that other companies—including competitors—are embracing this approach, theoretically giving them an advantage.

On the other hand, machine management puts companies on a slippery slope. Instead of cultivating good, attentive management and HR practices, employers may simply allow machines to pay attention to important things like employee satisfaction. As a result, managers' instincts and skills may atrophy.

Of course, every industry and every company is different. But, in general, companies that are aggressively plowing into this realm of employee surveillance could suffer unintended consequences.

One of these could be employees who feel they're working in an Orwellian environment. The very systems put in place to retain employees could end up driving them away.

Another outcome could be that employees who "game the system" end up being the ones promoted or rewarded, rather than the most qualified workers.

But the biggest risk is losing the art of management. By relying on this type of software, managers might pay less attention to employees, and fail to hone the soft skills that are required for a truly well-run department and company.

Should important employee management be outsourced to machines? Absolutely not. While there can be a place for HR predictive analytics, it should never be used to replace the human touch.

This article was originally published on 2015-04-30

Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributor, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger. http://elgan.com/

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