The evolution of predictive analytics technology continues to be something to keep an eye on in 2015. Although the technique is nothing new to the average consumer – we see it every time Netflix recommends a movie or Facebook places an ad on our news feed – it might be time to pay closer attention to the affect it could have in our work lives. Whether that impact is negative or positive is too early to determine, but one thing is certain: Technology companies are creating big data analytics software to monitor employee activity and the sophistication and capabilities of that technology are steadily increasing.
Take Workday. The company’s cloud-based human resource management software is used by hundreds of organizations to oversee their employees.
Back in November, Quentin Hardy wrote in The New York Times that Workday takes big data analytics and goes a step further than Netflix and Facebook. Instead of merely suggesting a movie or an ad to click on, Workday’s software is now capable of calculating which employees are most likely to leave a company or overspend their budgets. After collecting this information, Workday offers HR managers options that can range from job promotions to reprimands. It’s this type of dynamic analysis that sets Workday apart from other vendors, observers say.
“There are other vendors talking about ‘predictive analytics,’ but what I think is different about Workday is that they are looking at publicly available data, such as job postings, and not just aggregating customer data or bringing in a third-party data set,” said IDC Research Director Christine Dover, in an interview with TechTarget executive editor David Essex.
So on the upside, these kinds of predictive analytic tools can help companies increase productivity, reduce spending budgets and recognize employees who excel at their jobs. But for every upside, there is a downside.
Hardy, for example, wondered in his Times article what impact Workday could have on college students who haven’t even entered the workforce. As Hardy wrote, “Workday is also used for school recruitment: Should knowledge of what companies like to see on a resume affect choices in curriculum design, or the kinds of projects students work on?”
Hardy has a point. So much of the growth in technology depends on innovation, which flows from creativity. I like to believe that many people are naturally creative, and when groups of people come together to solve a problem or create a product, the answers come from a diverse set of ideas. If students start basing their curriculum choices on what they think will look appealing to potential employers, that desire to conform might end up making everyone too similar.
Students and employees already face enough pressure to impress their professors, bosses and colleagues. Will they now also have to bow to the whims of a piece of data analytics software?