Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sat May 23rd 2009 at 4:10pm UTC

Before You Even Think About It

Google has developed a nifty new algorithm to identify employees who are most likely to leave the company. Discoblog explains:

Performance reviews, pay raises, promotion histories, and other data on its 20,000 employees were crunched into yet another mathematical formula, which reportedly spat out the names of who was most likely to quit.

No surprise, Google insiders are keeping quiet about the details of the algorithm, though they will say that it has already “identified employees who felt underused,” a key precursor to telling your boss to shove it. Meanwhile Laszlo Bock, the company’s head of HR, told the Wall Street Journal that the algorithm helps the company “get inside people’s heads even before they know they might leave.”

Perhaps it’s fashionable to bash uber-successful companies. I visited Google twice for book talksĀ  – once at their Silicon Valley headquarters, and also at their NYC office. I’ve been to a lot of high-tech companies, leading-edge manufacturing plants, and the trendiest of creative enclaves, but Google still blew me away. The digs were great, and employees (at least the ones I met) appeared smart, challenged by their work, and genuinely engaged in what they were doing. Not to mention, the algorithm seems pretty useful and reasonable to me.

2 Responses to “Before You Even Think About It”

  1. Mike L. Says:

    Google’s formula sounds like a mathematical implementation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Google don’t need to reveal “The Colonel’s Secret Formula”, but it would be great if they could indicate the extent to which their formula confirms and/or challenges Maslow.

  2. NIkolai Kondratieff Says:

    This type of mentality is the very same misplaced belief–that you can reduce human behavior down to a formula–that has gotten us into the greatest financial and economic mess in history. It’s the same reason there are more financial engineers than scientific engineers, as noted in the TNR article on Roubini. It’s patently absurd to think that behavior (risk taking, job changing, profit seeking, etc, etc) can be summed up in a nice and neat inherently logical mathematical formula. It’s the reason our financial system has imploded–the dominance of the quant approach to option strategies, trading platforms, fx, equities, derivitives, etc, is a foolish pursuit of trying to eliminate the unknowns from the equation to produce predictable results. Black Scholes was just the beginning in the 1970s but it changed everything and set the financial industry on a quest for the holy grail of ever increasing returns, consistency and predictability. It’s a fools errand and this Google HR algorithm is more of the same. Well, maybe when we achieve “the singularity” it will be useful to keep the drones in line.