Monday, November 1, 2010

Predicting employee behavior available now

In a column titled, "'Pre-crime' Comes to the HR Dept.", Mike Elgin talked about a new industry, fortune telling.

Ok, he's not actually talking about fortune telling in the traditional sense. He is talking about predicting how people and companies will act in the future based on how they've acted in the past. He talks about two companies. The first is Social Intelligence, a company that scours social networks to provide information on prospective employees to companies. The idea is that information found on social networks is a better indicator of what kind of employee you will be than your resume.

The second company he talks about is Recorded Future. Recorded Future also scours the web to predict the future actions of people and companies. It attempts to find logical links that make it possible to make those predictions.

These are two companies, but how long before this type of algorithm is common in HR departments? What happens when hiring, firing and promotions are determined by predictions of future performance rather than past performance? What happens when software predicts that you will leave within 6 months? Will the company fire you preemptively?

For many of us, having an online presence is unavoidable, or even necessary. What does our online presence say about us? What kind of impression are we giving, and what kind of predictions can be made from it? As new and better predictive algorithms are developed the tidbits we leave online will become more important. Having control over as many as those tidbits as possible is the only way to have any control over our own lives. As things are now, we are at the mercy of the data miners who build profiles to predict what we like, what we don't like and how to convince us we need things. In the near future they will also be determining whether and how much money we have by telling our employers whether we should be given a raise, a promotion, or even a job.