Who needs HR consultants when you have computers?

by Vault Consulting Editors | May 20, 2009

  • My Vault

While many companies find recessions to be a prime time to turn to HR consultants for help, Google claims to have found a new solution to its people issues. And it doesn't involve people. The company has started pulling data from recent employee reviews and promotion and pay histories, and plugging it into a mathematical formula to figure out which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to quit first.

Though it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Tech King of the 21st Century is applying technology to every problem under the sun, it is somewhat disconcerting that it's making no exception for human emotion. As one Google HR leader explains it, Google's algorithm helps the company "get inside people's heads even before they know they might leave." Spoooooooooky!

Such an approach, it would seem, is only possible at companies with bulging staff numbers, where employees are treated less like people and more like numbers in the first place. That certainly seems to be the case at Google, which has lost a bit of its startup atmosphere in the past few years … and consequently a bit of talent, as well. Commenting on that fact, some current and former Googlers told The Wall Street Journal that they felt the company's HR programs are too impersonal, there is little formal career trajectory and that they aren't able to make as much of an impact on the company as they had in the past—typical growing pains, no doubt.

"They need to come up with ways to keep people engaged," said Valerie Frederickson, an HR consultant in Silicon Valley. That's unsurprising advice from someone in the industry, but there's certainly some truth there. And I'm not sure Google's drone-like approach is heading in the right direction. That said, maybe I'm jumping to conclusions. Maybe Google will take its computer-generated data and up the ante on its not-too-shabby list of perks (though I'm not gonna lie: The cancellation of tea time was a huge blow). But there's only so far that flashy perks can carry you (or is there?) without getting to the root of the problem, connecting with employees and establishing some formal retention strategies.

Filed Under: Consulting

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