The combination of the large-scale hyper-connectivity that comes from social media, the addictive habits of engaging with it, and the incredible ability to personalize what we see, hear and believe, can sometimes create a sense of satisfaction at best. (think Spotify and the beauty of being able to listen to the music I love effortlessly), and at worst, a fractured society.
So what’s the relevance of this for HR?
Human Resources have taken this journey to do the opposite – introduce an objective standard of truth given the risks that come with personalized decision making when it comes to things like hiring and promotion. The risk that hiring decisions will be made by individuals based on their own opinions means that we see hires being influenced by unconscious biases – something that may be easier to identify than to correct. “Mirror hiring” and companies hiring for “culture fit” also lead to a seamless corporate culture and poor production and products. Consider the decline of so many old Fortune 500 companies over the past 50 years. Do you think Kodak and his ilk would have collapsed so quickly if they had had a truly diverse set of opinions and experiences at their leadership level?
It is no coincidence that in The social dilemma, most of the protagonists (if that’s the right word) who shared their regrets and ideas on “how the hell did we get here? were mostly young white men.
From my own experience of being involved in human resource development at a leading digital technology company, engineers were hired on the basis of two data inputs: their coding ability and their “fit” to the job. ‘team. The former is easily tested using objective tools, but the latter is tested extensively by talking to the team. Or to put it another way – 100% subjective data, 0% objective data. Is it any wonder then that you end up with more of the same when you use the personal opinions of humans to drive those decisions? People are so afraid that the data will amplify the bias, and humans can be very good at it too.
Bias in the recruiting process has been a problem for as long as modern hiring practices have existed. In order to address some concerns, the idea of ”blind requests” became popular a few years ago, with companies simply removing the names of the requests and believing that this would remove any sexist or racial profiling. It made a difference, but prejudices still existed across the schools people attended, as well as any past experiences they may have had. Interestingly, these are two things that have now been shown to have no impact on a person’s ability to perform well in a job.
Away from computer screens and smartphone addictions, when it comes to hiring, HR has to do exactly what social media has silenced. He must ensure that there is objective truth about each candidate. He must do it for each new hire, each promotion.
Ironically, that’s what social media has armed with – “data” is really the only thing that can really help us get there. I often speak of “hard data” – that is, data that has been collected without input bias – and it is only this data that helps us to disrupt the biases that arise from placing humans in. the seat of decision-making. This objective data creates a truly holistic picture of an individual when it helps inform hiring decisions; decisions that will shape a company’s culture and its future. The data seeks to understand who you are – not the school you attended or the degree you hold, but rather how you think and behave and most of your intrinsic traits.
It was the homogeneous culture of Facebook that encouraged the technical genius on ethical thinking that ultimately created the issues discussed in The social dilemma. If they had only used their skills to invest in objective data that sets aside their technical biases and engages them for humanity, we may not question them like we are.
Barbara Hyman is the CEO of PredictiveLocation, an AI-driven, Melbourne-based recruiting technology company.