While African-American folklore hero John Henry was able to overcome the steam engine, he paid for the victory shortly after when his heart exploded. HR professionals may soon face a similar challenge to their job security, according to a recent paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
The study, a joint effort between the University of Toronto, Harvard University and Yale University, measured the turnover data for 300,000 hires in low-skill positions to determine the effects of managerial decision-making during the interview process, noted Bloomberg Business. The results suggested that companies may be better off just letting the computers crunch the numbers. Unless HR professionals are willing to improve their hiring process with a John Henry-esque tenacity, it may be just a matter of time before big data and advanced algorithms steal the show.
“It’s just a matter of time before algorithms steal the show.”
Results show that human intervention produces worse results
Hiring managers participating in the NBER study were given the leeway to ignore the data-driven results when making their decisions and trust their gut, but these preferential selections were far from fruitful. In fact, hires who were selected with less managerial intervention ended up lasting on the job 15 percent longer than their peers.
This trend speaks not only to the sophistication of modern technology at the disposal of HR professionals but also to the potential for hiring managers, even experienced professionals, to make serious errors based on preferring their own assumptions to conclusions drawn from complex algorithmic models. HR professionals should be on their best behavior, lest their bosses start performing a cost-benefit analysis – swapping out their salary to pay for maintenance costs.
Few hiring managers are immune to personal bias
The study performed by NBER also reemphasized a commonly overlooked part of the interview process, i.e., the biases and preconceptions of the interviewers. Now that data analysis has become a part of the hiring process, evidence of those biases is now more readily available.
“It’s human nature to think that some of that information you’re learning in an interview is valuable,” said Danielle Li of Harvard, one of the study’s authors, according to Bloomberg Business. “Is it more valuable than the information in the test? In a lot of cases, the answer is no.”
It’s more likely than not that most HR professionals in hiring positions are guilty of certain biases that impact their decision, based on race, gender, sexuality, weight, alma mater or any number of factors. Until these biases can be recognized and overcome, the unfeeling robot replacement becomes a more attractive alternative every year.
Tips for keeping the machines at bay
HR professionals can breathe a sigh of relief for the near future. The cost of going fully digital in the hiring process represents a low-priority expense for most firms. More importantly, there is still a place for human intuition in the hiring process. HR professionals must simply recognize areas to leverage their experience and input objectively.
Entrepreneur pointed out that data-driven tools are more effective when refined to account for human elements like employee engagement and happiness on the job. Defining algorithmic metrics for measuring these feelings will take a spark of creativity that can’t yet be reproduced by a computer. By leveraging personal experience in this stage of the hiring process, HR professionals can contribute more productively to the hiring of quality talent. Furthermore, these same professionals maybe more likely to trust test results if they are confident that the algorithm was developed with their input.