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

Predicting students' happiness from physiology, phone, mobility, and behavioral data
Natasha Jaques. 2015. “Predicting students' happiness from physiology, phone, mobility, and behavioral data”. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In order to model students' happiness, we apply machine learning methods to data collected from undergrad students monitored over the course of one month each. The data collected include physiological signals, location, smartphone logs, and survey responses to behavioral questions. Each day, participants reported their wellbeing on measures including stress, health, and happiness. Because of the relationship between happiness and depression, modeling happiness may help us to detect individuals who are at risk of depression and guide interventions to help them. We are also interested in how behavioral factors (such as sleep and social activity) affect happiness positively and negatively. A variety of machine learning and feature selection techniques are compared, including Gaussian Mixture Models and ensemble classification. We achieve 70% classification accuracy of self-reported happiness on held-out test data.

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More Popular Press

How the Eagles Followed the Numbers to the Super Bowl
Ben Shpigel. 2/2/2018. “How the Eagles Followed the Numbers to the Super Bowl.” The New York Times. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The most illuminating moment of the Eagles’ enchanted season was a Week 3 play ridiculed in Philadelphia but celebrated here by a small cadre of people who recognized its significance almost immediately.

What fueled the excitement among members of the EdjSports crew was not the outcome of the play — a 6-yard sack of Carson Wentz on fourth-and-8 that gifted the Giants good field position — but rather the call itself. Leading by 7-0 on the Giants’ 43-yard line a few minutes before halftime, the Eagles opted not to punt.

By keeping Philadelphia’s offense on the field in a situation almost always played safe in the risk-averse N.F.L., Coach Doug Pederson did not buck conventional wisdom so much as roll his eyes at it.

An intern at EdjSports, responding to a flurry of text messages from his colleagues about the play, ran the numbers at home. The Eagles, by going for it, improved their probability of winning by 0.5 percent. Defending his decision (again) at a news conference the next day, Pederson cited that exact statistic.

 

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University of Arizona tracks student ID cards to detect who might drop out
Shannon Liao. 3/12/2018. “University of Arizona tracks student ID cards to detect who might drop out.” The Verge. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The University of Arizona is tracking freshman students’ ID card swipes to anticipate which students are more likely to drop out. University researchers hope to use the data to lower dropout rates. (Dropping out refers to those who have left higher-education entirely and those who transfer to other colleges.)

The card data tells researchers how frequently a student has entered a residence hall, library, and the student recreation center, which includes a salon, convenience store, mail room, and movie theater. The cards are also used for buying vending machine snacks and more, putting the total number of locations near 700. There’s a sensor embedded in the CatCard student IDs, which are given to every student attending the university.

“By getting their digital traces, you can explore their patterns of movement, behavior and interactions, and that tells you a great deal about them,” Sudha Ram, a professor of management information systems who directs the initiative, said in a press release.

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Artificial Intelligence and Ethics
Jonathan Shaw. 1/2019. “Artificial Intelligence and Ethics.” Harvard Magazine. Publisher's VersionAbstract

ON MARCH 18, 2018, at around 10 P.M., Elaine Herzberg was wheeling her bicycle across a street in Tempe, Arizona, when she was struck and killed by a self-driving car. Although there was a human operator behind the wheel, an autonomous system—artificial intelligence—was in full control. This incident, like others involving interactions between people and AI technologies, raises a host of ethical and proto-legal questions. What moral obligations did the system’s programmers have to prevent their creation from taking a human life? And who was responsible for Herzberg’s death? The person in the driver’s seat? The company testing the car’s capabilities? The designers of the AI system, or even the manufacturers of its onboard sensory equipment?

“Artificial intelligence” refers to systems that can be designed to take cues from their environment and, based on those inputs, proceed to solve problems, assess risks, make predictions, and take actions. In the era predating powerful computers and big data, such systems were programmed by humans and followed rules of human invention, but advances in technology have led to the development of new approaches. One of these is machine learning, now the most active area of AI, in which statistical methods allow a system to “learn” from data, and make decisions, without being explicitly programmed. Such systems pair an algorithm, or series of steps for solving a problem, with a knowledge base or stream—the information that the algorithm uses to construct a model of the world.

Ethical concerns about these advances focus at one extreme on the use of AI in deadly military drones, or on the risk that AI could take down global financial systems. Closer to home, AI has spurred anxiety about unemployment, as autonomous systems threaten to replace millions of truck drivers, and make Lyft and Uber obsolete. And beyond these larger social and economic considerations, data scientists have real concerns about bias, about ethical implementations of the technology, and about the nature of interactions between AI systems and humans if these systems are to be deployed properly and fairly in even the most mundane applications.

Consider a prosaic-seeming social change: machines are already being given the power to make life-altering, everyday decisions about people. Artificial intelligence can aggregate and assess vast quantities of data that are sometimes beyond human capacity to analyze unaided, thereby enabling AI to make hiring recommendations, determine in seconds the creditworthiness of loan applicants, and predict the chances that criminals will re-offend.

But such applications raise troubling ethical issues because AI systems can reinforce what they have learned from real-world data, even amplifying familiar risks, such as racial or gender bias. Systems can also make errors of judgment when confronted with unfamiliar scenarios. And because many such systems are “black boxes,” the reasons for their decisions are not easily accessed or understood by humans—and therefore difficult to question, or probe.

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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

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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The Performance Management Revolution
Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis. 10/2016. “The Performance Management Revolution.” Harvard Business Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

When Brian Jensen told his audience of HR executives that Colorcon wasn’t bothering with annual reviews anymore, they were appalled. This was in 2002, during his tenure as the drugmaker’s head of global human resources. In his presentation at the Wharton School, Jensen explained that Colorcon had found a more effective way of reinforcing desired behaviors and managing performance: Supervisors were giving people instant feedback, tying it to individuals’ own goals, and handing out small weekly bonuses to employees they saw doing good things.

Back then the idea of abandoning the traditional appraisal process—and all that followed from it—seemed heretical. But now, by some estimates, more than one-third of U.S. companies are doing just that. From Silicon Valley to New York, and in offices across the world, firms are replacing annual reviews with frequent, informal check-ins between managers and employees.

How We Got Here

Historical and economic context has played a large role in the evolution of performance management over the decades. When human capital was plentiful, the focus was on which people to let go, which to keep, and which to reward—and for those purposes, traditional appraisals (with their emphasis on individual accountability) worked pretty well. But when talent was in shorter supply, as it is now, developing people became a greater concern—and organizations had to find new ways of meeting that need.

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HR Must Make People Analytics More User-Friendly
John Boudreau. 6/16/2017. “HR Must Make People Analytics More User-Friendly.” Harvard Business Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Managing HR-related data is critical to any organization’s success. And yet progress in HR analytics has been glacially slow. Consulting firms in the U.S. and Europe lament the slow progress. But a Harvard Business Review analytics study of 230 executives suggests a stunning rate of anticipated progress: 15% said they use “predictive analytics based on HR data and data from other sources within or outside the organization,” while 48% predicted they would be doing so in two years. The reality seems less impressive, as a global IBM survey of more than 1,700 CEOs found that 71% identified human capital as a key source of competitive advantage, yet a global study by Tata Consultancy Services showed that only 5% of big-data investments were in human resources.

Recently, my colleague Wayne Cascio and I took up the question of why HR analytics progress has been so slow despite many decades of research and practical tool building, an exponential increase in available HR data, and consistent evidence that improved HR and talent management leads to stronger organizational performance. Our article in the Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance discusses factors that can effectively “push” HR measures and analysis to audiences in a more impactful way, as well as factors that can effectively lead others to “pull” that data for analysis throughout the organization.

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