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Your Company Is Probably Starting to Analyze You in Unbelievable Ways


How much does your employer know about you? If they’re using “people analytics,” the application of big data analysis to human resource management, the answer is: probably a lot.


(Photo Credit: lavverue/Flickr)

Companies like Google, Intel, and General Motors have teams in their HR departments dedicated to using predictive analytics, similar to the type made famous by Billy Beane in Moneyball. The difference here is that instead of using data models to build a winning baseball team, these companies are using them to build a winning corporate team. Because our “scores,” as workers, are based on more private statistics than baseball players, applying stats to employee performance, as Don Peck at The Atlantic writes…

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“…can’t help but feel a little creepy. It requires the creation of a vastly larger box score of human performance than one would ever encounter in the sports pages, or that has ever been dreamed up before. To some degree, the endeavor touches on the deepest of human mysteries: how we grow, whether we flourish, what we become.”

What kinds of stats are companies looking at, and how are they getting them? Well, in the course of Peck’s article, he examines a startup called Knack, which has developed video games with names like Wasabi Waiter and Dungeon Scrawl. On the surface, they sound pretty typical for the Angry Birds, Candy Crush era. (Wasabi Waiter, for example, involves getting plates of sushi to customers at a busy restaurant.) But these games are more than just fun time-wasters: when taken by candidates, they produce reams of information about how the player thinks creatively, rebounds from mistakes, and prioritizes. Knack claims they can even tell employers about your social intelligence and personality.

Sounds relatively harmless, and infinitely preferable to, say, allowing your prospective employer to data-mine your Facebook profile. And on paper, the results look great: one client claims that Knack’s algorithm successfully predicted which contributors would have successful ideas. (But on the other hand, what if you’re just really bad at video games?)

Of course, the Knack model isn’t the only one available to companies who want more info about their employers. Google’s People Analytics department is generally pretty closemouthed about how it uses data, but we know that they use at least one relatively old-fashioned tool to refine their hiring and management process: the employee survey.

Furthermore, since their findings indicated that GPAs are worthless to predicting the success of a potential Google employee, and even their percentage of workers who attended college is on the decline, Big Data could be good news for smart candidates who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks.

Tell Us What You Think

How would you feel if your company was doing this? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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