Harvard Business Review: Better People Analytics

Better People Analytics

Artificial Intelligence and Ethics

Artificial Intelligence and Ethics

How the Eagles Followed the Numbers to the Super Bowl

How the Eagles Followed the Numbers to the Super Bowl

How People Analytics Can Change Process, Culture, and Strategy

How People Analytics Can Change Process, Culture, and Strategy

University Took Uncommonly Close Look at Student-Conduct Data

Rutgers

Dodgers, Brewers show how analytics is changing baseball

Baseball

Little Privacy in the Workplace of the Future

Little Privacy in the Workplace of the Future

Google's Culture of Self-Surveying

Google

The Resume of the Future

The Resume of the Future

More Academic Articles

Small Cues Change Savings Choices
James J.Choi, Emily Haisley, Jennifer Kurkoski, and Cade Massey. 2017. “Small Cues Change Savings Choices.” Behavioral Evidence Hub. Publisher's VersionAbstract

PROJECT SUMMARY

Researchers tested the effects of including cues, anchors, and savings goals in a company email encouraging employee contributions to their 401(k).

IMPACT

Researchers found that providing high contribution rate or savings goal examples, or highlighting high savings thresholds created by the 401(k) plan rules, increased 401(k) contribution rates by 1-2% of income per pay period.

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Overcoming Algorithm Aversion: People Will Use Imperfect Algorithms If They Can (Even Slightly) Modify Them
Berkeley Dietvorst, Joseph P. Simmons, and Cade Massey. 6/13/2015. “Overcoming Algorithm Aversion: People Will Use Imperfect Algorithms If They Can (Even Slightly) Modify Them.” SSRN. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Although evidence-based algorithms consistently outperform human forecasters, people often fail to use them after learning that they are imperfect, a phenomenon known as algorithm aversion. In this paper, we present three studies investigating how to reduce algorithm aversion. In incentivized forecasting tasks, participants chose between using their own forecasts or those of an algorithm that was built by experts. Participants were considerably more likely to choose to use an imperfect algorithm when they could modify its forecasts, and they performed better as a result. Notably, the preference for modifiable algorithms held even when participants were severely restricted in the modifications they could make (Studies 1-3). In fact, our results suggest that participants’ preference for modifiable algorithms was indicative of a desire for some control over the forecasting outcome, and not for a desire for greater control over the forecasting outcome, as participants’ preference for modifiable algorithms was relatively insensitive to the magnitude of the modifications they were able to make (Study 2). Additionally, we found that giving participants the freedom to modify an imperfect algorithm made them feel more satisfied with the forecasting process, more likely to believe that the algorithm was superior, and more likely to choose to use an algorithm to make subsequent forecasts (Study 3). This research suggests that one can reduce algorithm aversion by giving people some control - even a slight amount - over an imperfect algorithm’s forecast.
The Bright Side of Being Prosocial at Work, and the Dark Side, Too
Mark C. Bolino and Adam Grant. 2016. “The Bright Side of Being Prosocial at Work, and the Dark Side, Too.” The Academy of Management Annals. Publisher's VersionAbstract
More than a quarter century ago, organizational scholars began to explore the implications of prosociality in organizations. Three interrelated streams have emerged from this work, which focus on prosocial motives (the desire to benefit others or expend effort out of concern for others), prosocial behaviors (acts that promote/protect the welfare of individuals, groups, or organizations), and prosocial impact (the experience of making a positive difference in the lives of others through one’s work). Prior studies have highlighted the importance of prosocial motives, behaviors, and impact, and have enhanced our understanding of each of them. However, there has been little effort to systematically review and integrate these related lines of work in a way that furthers our understanding of prosociality in organizations. In this article, we provide an overview of the current state of the literature, highlight key findings, identify major research themes, and address important controversies and debates. We call for an expanded view of prosocial behavior and a sharper focus on the costs and unintended consequences of prosocial phenomena. We conclude by suggesting a number of avenues for future research that will address unanswered questions and should provide a more complete understanding of prosociality in the workplace.
Shifts and Ladders: Comparing the Role of Internal and External Mobility in Managerial Careers
Matthew Bidwell and Ethan Mollick. 10/5/2015. “Shifts and Ladders: Comparing the Role of Internal and External Mobility in Managerial Careers.” Organization Science, 26, 6, Pp. 1553-1804. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Employees can build their careers either by moving into a new job within their current organization or else by moving to a different organization. We use matching perspectives on job mobility to develop predictions about the different roles that those internal and external moves will play within careers. Using data on the careers of master of business administration alumni, we show how internal and external mobility are associated with very different rewards: upward progression into a job with greater responsibilities is much more likely to happen through internal mobility than external mobility; yet despite this difference, external moves offer similar increases in pay to internal, as employers seek to attract external hires. Consistent with our arguments, we also show that the pay increases associated with external moves are lower when the moves take place for reasons other than career advancement, such as following a layoff or when moving into a different kind of work. Despite growing interest in boundaryless careers, our findings indicate that internal and external mobility play very different roles in executives’ careers, with upward mobility still happening overwhelmingly within organizations.
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More Popular Press

Inside Google’s culture of relentless self-surveying
Tim Fernholz. 6/26/2013. “Inside Google’s culture of relentless self-surveying.” Quartz. Publisher's VersionAbstract

When Google recently admitted that the baffling brainteasers it posed to interviewees were utterly useless at predicting which ones would make good employees, it was another example of the power of what Google calls “people analytics”—the mixing of Big Data with management science to come up with smarter ways to work.

The company’s obsession with human data is perhaps best known for producing the rule that no employee should sit more than 150 feet (46 meters) away from a micro-kitchen, and that in those kitchens the chocolate M&Ms be kept in opaque jars while healthier food is in clear containers, to encourage healthy eating habits. Google’s often controversial culture of omniscience about its users is mirrored, inside its posh campuses, by a team of industrial-organizational psychologists, behavioral economists, consultants and statisticians who survey and experiment with Google’s staff.

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A.I. as Talent Scout: Unorthodox Hires, and Maybe Lower Pay
Noam Scheiber. 12/6/2018. “A.I. as Talent Scout: Unorthodox Hires, and Maybe Lower Pay.” The New York Times. Publisher's VersionAbstract

One day this fall, Ashutosh Garg, the chief executive of a recruiting service called Eightfold.ai, turned up a résumé that piqued his interest.

It belonged to a prospective data scientist, someone who unearths patterns in data to help businesses make decisions, like how to target ads. But curiously, the résumé featured the term “data science” nowhere.

Instead, the résumé belonged to an analyst at Barclays who had done graduate work in physics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Though his profile on the social network LinkedIn indicated that he had never worked as a data scientist, Eightfold’s software flagged him as a good fit. He was similar in certain key ways, like his math and computer chops, to four actual data scientists whom Mr. Garg had instructed the software to consider as a model.

The idea is not to focus on job titles, but “what skills they have,” Mr. Garg said. “You’re really looking for people who have not done it, but can do it.”

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Meet Your New Boss: An Algorithm

Meet Your New Boss: An Algorithm

A.I. as Talent Scout: Unorthodox Hires, and Maybe Lower Pay

A.I. as Talent Scout: Unorthodox Hires, and Maybe Lower Pay

The Performance Management Revolution

Performance Management

Amazon scrapped 'sexist AI' tool

Amazon AI

Making it easier to discover datasets

Google AI

HR Must Make People Analytics More User-Friendly

HR Must Make People Analytics More User-Friendly

More Harvard Business Review

Better People Analytics
Paul Leonardi and Noshir Contractor. 11/1/2018. “Better People Analytics.” Harvard Business Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

"We have charts and graphs to back us up. So f*** off.” New hires in Google’s people analytics department began receiving a laptop sticker with that slogan a few years ago, when the group probably felt it needed to defend its work. Back then people analytics—using statistical insights from employee data to make talent management decisions—was still a provocative idea with plenty of skeptics who feared it might lead companies to reduce individuals to numbers. HR collected data on workers, but the notion that it could be actively mined to understand and manage them was novel—and suspect.

Today there’s no need for stickers. More than 70% of companies now say they consider people analytics to be a high priority. The field even has celebrated case studies, like Google’s Project Oxygen, which uncovered the practices of the tech giant’s best managers and then used them in coaching sessions to improve the work of low performers. Other examples, such as Dell’s experiments with increasing the success of its sales force, also point to the power of people analytics.

But hype, as it often does, has outpaced reality. The truth is, people analytics has made only modest progress over the past decade. A survey by Tata Consultancy Services found that just 5% of big-data investments go to HR, the group that typically manages people analytics. And a recent study by Deloitte showed that although people analytics has become mainstream, only 9% of companies believe they have a good understanding of which talent dimensions drive performance in their organizations.

What gives? If, as the sticker says, people analytics teams have charts and graphs to back them up, why haven’t results followed? We believe it’s because most rely on a narrow approach to data analysis: They use data only about individual people, when data about the interplay among people is equally or more important.

People’s interactions are the focus of an emerging discipline we call relational analytics. By incorporating it into their people analytics strategies, companies can better identify employees who are capable of helping them achieve their goals, whether for increased innovation, influence, or efficiency. Firms will also gain insight into which key players they can’t afford to lose and where silos exist in their organizations.

Most people analytics teams rely on a narrow approach to data analysis.

Fortunately, the raw material for relational analytics already exists in companies. It’s the data created by e-mail exchanges, chats, and file transfers—the digital exhaust of a company. By mining it, firms can build good relational analytics models.

In this article we present a framework for understanding and applying relational analytics. And we have the charts and graphs to back us up.

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The Most Valuable People in Your Network
Rob Cross. 3/8/2011. “The Most Valuable People in Your Network.” Harvard Business Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Too often new collaborative technologies — though intended to connect employees seamlessly and enable work to get done more efficiently — are misused in ways that impede innovation and hurt performance.

Age-old wisdom suggests it is not what but whom you know that matters. Over decades this truism has been supported by a great deal of research on networks. Work since the 1970s shows that people who maintain certain kinds of networks do better: They are promoted more rapidly than their peers, make more money, are more likely to find a job if they lose their own, and are more likely to be considered high performers.

But the secret to these networks has never been their size. Simply following the advice of self-help books and building mammoth Rolodexes or Facebook accounts actually tends to hurt performance as well as have a negative effect on health and well-being at work. Rather, the people who do better tend to have more ties to people who themselves are not connected. People with ties to the less-connected are more likely to hear about ideas that haven’t gotten exposure elsewhere, and are able to piece together opportunities in ways that less-effectively-networked colleagues cannot.

If bigger is not better in networks, what is the actual impact of social media tools in the workforce? The answer: They are as likely to actually hurt performance and engagement as they are to help — if they simply foist more collaborative demands on an already-overloaded workforce. In most places, people are drowning in collaborative demands imposed by meetings, emails, and phone calls. For most of us, these activities consume 75% to 90% of a typical work week and constitute a gauntlet to get to the work we must do. In this context, new collaborative technologies, when not used appropriately, are over-loading us all and diminishing efficiency and innovation at work.

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How to Have a Good Debate in a Meeting
Morten T. Hansen. 1/10/2018. “How to Have a Good Debate in a Meeting”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The modern workplace is awash in meetings, many of which are terrible. As a result, people mostly hate going to meetings. The problem is this: The whole point of meetings is to have discussions that you can’t have any other way. And yet most meetings are devoid of real debate.

To improve the meetings you run, and save the meetings you’re invited to, focus on making the discussion more robust.

When teams have a good fight during meetings, team members debate the issues, consider alternatives, challenge one another, listen to minority views, and scrutinize assumptions. Every participant can speak up without fear of retribution. However, many people shy away from such conflict, conflating disagreement and debate with personal attacks. In reality, this sort of friction produces the best decisions. In my recent study of 5,000 managers and employees, published in my recent book, I found that the best performers are really good at generating rigorous discussions in team meetings. (The sample includes senior and junior managers and individual contributors from a range of industries in corporate America; my aim was to statistically identify work habits that correlate with higher performance.)

So how do you lead a good fight in meetings? Here are six practical tips:

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