The strange new world of hiring and employee tracking

Cloud-based HR systems improving data collection, analytics

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Your employer wants to hire top salespeople and is counting on HR to deliver the best. There's the old-fashioned way: collect resumes, sort for keywords, check on social networks, get referrals and interview.

But what about geotagging?

Employers often have "top performer clubs" for their salespeople. Incentives for these top performers usually involve rewards such as trips to Hawaii, the Caribbean or Italy.

"That's fairly public knowledge," said Bertrand Dussert, vice president of Human Capital Management (HCM) transformation and thought leadership at Oracle. "You can assemble the known list of salespeople and compare it to geotagged tweets." (Clues can be found on the web. For instance, see this corporate blog post, Italy Awaits Adobe's Top Sales Performers).

"And now you have a targeted list -- provided by the employer -- of their very top salespeople," Dussert said.

This type of analysis is being enabled, in part, by the shift to cloud-based HR systems. It can bring more analytics, databases and tools to users for improving hiring processes and retaining employees.

At the Oracle HCM World conference in Boston last week, there were broad questions about the risks associated with some of these new capabilities.

A new employee, at the time of hiring, might sign forms acknowledging that the company may monitor the employee's email, web use and instant messaging. For some companies, it's standard practice.

But most employees quickly forget about acknowledgement forms, said Mary Young, a principal researcher, human capital, at The Conference Board. "And most people would probably be uncomfortable if they knew their employer was reading your emails."

But where the creep factor may be strongest is due to internet-of-things technologies. Sensors in access/ID cards and even office furniture not only track locations but may be sensitive enough to record biometrics.

Companies can take this information and use it for employee analysis or to glean how teams interact, for instance who talks with whom, and to examine how office space is used.

Young said companies need to be transparent with employees if they want to retain trust. "It would just be unethical to be collecting the data without telling people you are collecting the data," she said. It would hurt employee engagement and morale. "The cost of doing that would so outstrip the benefits."

The term used to describe this trend is "quantified workforce."

"It's about measuring every human-powered process in the enterprise," said Dussert. He defined the quantified workforce this way: "If there is a human being that is doing work, that is building a product, that is interacting with a customer, I want to be able to measure it."

This deeper measurement is also providing different approaches to hiring.

LinkedIn may be more important than resumes in understanding someone's strengths. Endorsements, especially if they are from experts in the speciality, may say a lot about a person's capabilities. Code competitions, for instance, may be more important than degrees,  Dussert said, when hiring a developer.

"I don't care if you went to MIT 10 years ago if you just won a Java code competition and you're top 10 in the world," he said.

Predictive analytics will play a growing role. Dussert said predictive analytics can help determine whether an employee is at risk of leaving the company. The system could analyze multiple variables, including performance rating, absenteeism and commuting time to work.

Algorithm-assisted decision making will also have a growing role in HR, but there are risks here since these systems could introduce bias into hiring.

These are new technologies and approaches enabled by social networks, big data and IoT. But it's hard to say how big of a change this will be for workers.

"The fact is we've all been measured at work for hundreds of years," said Bruce Flitcroft, the founder and CEO of IT infrastructure company Alliant Tech. "Now there's just hard data associated with it."

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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