Big Data to Improve Employee Hiring and Practices

Source: NYTimes, Apr 2013

… startling findings of an emerging field called work-force science. It adds a large dose of data analysis, a k a Big Data, to the field of human resource management, which has traditionally relied heavily on gut feel and established practice to guide hiring, promotion and career planning.

Work-force science, in short, is what happens when Big Data meets H.R.

“The heart of science is measurement,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. “We’re seeing a revolution in measurement, and it will revolutionize organizational economics and personnel economics.”

THE penchant for digital measurement and monitoring seems most suited to hourly employment, where jobs often involve routine tasks. But will this technology also be useful in identifying and nurturing successful workers in less-regimented jobs? Many companies think so, and can point to some encouraging evidence.

Tim Geisert, chief marketing officer for I.B.M.’s Kenexa unit, observed that an outgoing personality has traditionally been assumed to be the defining trait of successful sales people. But its research, based on millions of worker surveys and tests, as well as manager assessments, has found that the most important characteristic for sales success is a kind of emotional courage, a persistence to keep going even after initially being told no.

Google has found that the most innovative workers — also the “happiest,” by its definition — are those who have a strong sense of mission about their work and who also feel that they have much personal autonomy.

Michael Housman, an economist and managing director of analytics at Evolv, says he thinks work-force science will increasingly be applied across the spectrum of jobs and professions, building profits, productivity, innovation and worker satisfaction.

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