Google's Human Resources Goes Algorithmic

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article examining Google's attempts to become proactive toward identifying disgruntled employees by using analytic software and Google's old faithful, the algorithm. This comes on the heels of i4cp's Mark Vickers articles "Digitized HR: How paranoid should you be?" and "Byting Your Knowledge Workers: The Next Productivity Revolution", both detailing the emergence of analytic software for making workforce planning decisions.

Google, which has made billions with a secretive array of algorithms used for everything from search queries to advertising competitiveness, is now taking a similar approach to looking inward at its employees. Concerned about the recent exodus of several top executives and critical personnel, Google has begun to process employee reviews, promotions and pay histories to analyze and identify who is most likely to quit.

According to the article, "current and former Googlers said the company is losing talent because some employees feel they can't make the same impact as the company matures. Several said Google provides little formal career planning, and some found the company's human-resources programs too impersonal."

Well nothing says personal like an algorithm. This one will help identify who is more likely to leave, perhaps "even before they know they might leave," said Laszlo Bock, the head of human resources for Google.

The company, however, is not doing away with more traditional methods. Instead, the algorithm is meant to synergize with a greater emphasis on employee training and leadership meetings to discuss talent issues.

It's no real surprise that Google has turned to an algorithm to address a problem, though if employees find the current human resources program impersonal, this is an interesting direction to go. At the same time, if it's truly used as one of many tools to address talent issues before they arise, there is great potential here.
Erik Samdahl
Erik is the head of marketing at i4cp, and has nearly 20 years in the market research and human capital research industry.