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Big Data and Its (Creepy) Effects on Employment

Posted by Flux on 

10 June 2014

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What’s trending now?

Big Data sounds a bit like Big Brother – and it’s not all that different. With the development of advanced software, related apps and the gadgets to go with them, big data was never far behind. It’s what Amazon uses to suggest new items that you’re likely to buy. And, it’s one of the primary purposes behind loyalty cards.

Now, big data is beginning to enter the world of big business; the effects are simultaneously exciting and creepy. Big data receptors and the information they glean may just be a part of everyday working life in the near future.

Why it’s important

HR managers regret something like 20% of their hiring and promotion decisions. It is easy to understand when the entire process is tied to gut instinct rather than facts. It wasn’t always this way, but qualitative assessments were spit out when they were discovered to have the bad aftertaste of racial bias in 1960s America. And the scienfitic approach was lost (either in an attempt to do the right thing or in an effort to stay out of the courtroom).

But now, companies are no longer forced to make guesses and regret their decisions. From hiring to promotion, big data can ensure that corporations are employing and promoting the right talent.

Big data has been easing into this realm for awhile. Algorithmic programming scans employee applications to weed out unqualified applicants before a human even sees their CV. And gamification isn’t just for engagement. Games, such as the ones created by Knack capture information about choices made during game play, how long a player hesitates, and the ability of a candidate to prioritise tasks. Essentially, the big data behind these games analyses a candidate’s ability to learn.

These applications are just the tip of the iceberg (that could sink the concept of personal privacy forever).

Companies can adopt and issue small lapel badges developed by the Human Dynamics Laboratory at MIT. These receptors hit about 100 data points a minute, and record information such as whether an employee is communicating with someone one his team (or another division); the inflection of his voice; how much time is spent listening versus speaking; and whether they are displaying empathy towards their colleagues.

With this big data, analysts can predict which team would win a business pitch and which employees are best suited to managerial roles. They’ll also know when people aren’t working efficiently.

Although use is still limited, this is where big data is headed in the workplace.

What’s the butterfly effect?

Besides the skin crawling intrusive element of big data, it has impressive benefits.

For a start, understanding how employees learn and process information allows them to be placed – and trained – into the right business environments.

And, when it comes to massive organisations, the idea that the right people would advance is tantalising. Effectively, big data levels the playing field; it erases the biases. The right employee would be promoted regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation and family background because the analytics deemed that person a leader.

The Pioneers

International corporations, supported by software think tanks are leading this trend. Companies like Xerox have been using big data and gamification within their call centre hiring processes for a few years. Other companies, such as Bloomberg, are recording every keystroke their employees make. Even Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas is tracking the smiles of their card dealers on the floor because this has been linked to increased customer satisfaction.

The Global Hotspots

The US is at the forefront of big data (and gamification, for that matter). It helps that they are the headquarters for plenty of large corporations and that Silicon Valley is constantly on the lookout for the next big tech trend. It also helps that many Americans have already accepted a loss of personal privacy for the sake of security. But that doesn’t mean it will take long for this idea to spread around the globe.

By: Katie Schenk

About Katie

KGB - Eastside

Katie is South African by choice, but she’s proud of being American too. She’s a writer, a producer, and a momma. If she can shut off – she sleeps. Her interests include advertising, home economics, entrepreneurial processes, South African idiosyncrasies, and rugby. (Really). She’s also a fan of Tudor history – but there’s nothing trendy (or trending) in that.

Image credit: Silicon Angle

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