At the end of August, EL PAÍS published the tragic news of the murder of a passenger at the hands of a driver of the company DiDi Chuxing Technology (the equivalent and main competitor of Uber in China). In processing the implications, I asked the typical naive question: How had it been possible for a psychopath to infiltrate this company to perpetrate from within his ignominious crimes and that no one was able to realize it?
When contextualizing the event, I was stunned. DiDi has a fleet of more than 21 million drivers. Surely, the prestigious psychologist at Stanford University Philip Zimbardo (“The Lucifer Effect”) will have calculated what percentage of evil people can be expected from a macro-army of such proportions.
Before the global uproar, the young president of DiDi, Jean Liu (1978), educated in the universities of the American Ivy League, had to publicly apologize for not having paid attention to the selection processes and requisites indispensable to be a member of one of the digital fashion companies in the Asian giant market. In addition, he acknowledged his mistake for having focused exclusively on growing his company in record time. The main lesson learned that was drawn in the air was the need to sophisticate the techniques and controls of the personnel selection processes.
The battle for the perfect employee
The machine is autonomous and efficient to select the suitability
In the US, with just 4% unemployment, the war for talent is not only receding but has intensified. The intensive demand for disruptive profiles that provide differential value has precipitated a fertile ground for a segment of emerging startups or startups to flourish. This sector specializes in recruiting talent through advanced algorithms that process the candidates’ data without stopping. Thus, automated solutions have been developed to carry out tasks that up to now corresponded to human decision making in all phases of the process. It has become a reality that the machine is autonomous and efficient to select the suitability and catalog in order of priority the received curriculums, as well as to evaluate, through the processing of problems and knowledge tests, if the level of competences and attitudes harmonize well with the data of the position and the culture of the employer.
Pymetrics is a fashion company in the US market, dedicated to the search and selection of talent for companies as big and significant as Burger King and Unilever and founded by a neuroscientist trained at MIT and Harvard, Frida Polli. The model offered unifies the technological advances in smart data and machine learning, and links them with all the knowledge and scientific literature that exists on the prediction of human behavior in a work and social environment. The result is the following: any candidate for a position of the companies that rely on Polli has to solve a package of questionnaires and problems whose purpose is to provide the human capital technician that is on the other side of the system a percentage that measures the risk of hire him
At the end of these telematic tests, without any face-to-face personal interview, each candidate is cataloged in percentiles. For example, Pedro has reached 72%, which represents a moderate risk to occupy the position. Javier, however, with 42% would be a high risk for the company. While those who reach the first percentile, from 80%, are those who go to the interview phase.
To conclude, the fact of being placed in the lower registers or high risk implies that the person in search of employment who dared to go through the filter of Pymetrics could receive a message begging him to refrain from attending another position in that company during the following twelve months. The emotional impact of a communication like that in a culture like the Spanish would be to feel offended and cross it off the list for the rest of life. However, in the US it works as an appendix to the selection dynamic itself, which is still a common slogan within the North American gentile tradition: “¡Espabila and next time be better prepared!”.
The IBM professional counselor
Another global reference company, IBM, has implemented the Watson Career Coach pilot project in 2018 as part of its talent retention and attraction strategy. With more than 350,000 employees worldwide, it aims to take advantage of its cutting-edge advances in AI by applying them to the footprint left by the employee in his or her future in the company (their curriculum, their matrix of competencies, the performance evaluations of their superiors, ongoing training, the degree of achievement of objectives achieved and the value of the position it occupies). All this information is extracted an in-depth analysis with which to make recommendations to the user on how to improve their career and internal promotion, so that each worker can access their automaton talent manager and make decisions based on the deficiencies or strengths that the tool detects in your profile and discover the most advantageous paths you should take to continue progressing and be more and more productive.
Technology should be neutral and not be conditioned by the ideological interests of the market
One of the strategic goals that IBM pursues with this technology is reminiscent of the challenges that the planned economy systems of the communist countries of the last century intended to solve. That is, if the demand for projects received by the company or the entire sector that involves the use of talent from HTML 5 or Java programmers begins to decline and, conversely, increases the number of Python-based projects, where hypothetically IBM may have Certain shortages, immediately his employees would begin to receive that information through his coach Watson, and the ‘prescriptive order’ would consist of rushing to start training courses in the new technical requirement.
These management trends highlight several situational factors:
The belief that a talented profile is ten, twenty or fifty times more valuable than the performance of an average employee continues to consolidate in the minds of the founders and presidents of the most influential companies in the world.
Technology is rededicated in the great hope to discover and cultivate that superior threshold of perfectibility that is needed to be profitable or leader in each sector.
There are still no serious scientific studies that show that analyzing the performance of people through statistics and algorithms is an absolute guarantee to stop ignoring or being blind to the hidden potential of people.
In my opinion, regardless of the level of solvency and complexity that the IA can provide in the identification of the best professional profiles, it will be necessary a balance between its conclusions and those that a human being should continue to exercise. Perhaps, the most utopian advantage that automatic assistants could provide us with is the opportunity to obtain a greater self-knowledge of ourselves. However, for this to occur, the technology itself should be neutral and not be conditioned by the ideological interests of the market, but based on universal cultural values and ethical principles connected to the improvement of society and individual welfare.
Zimbardo believes that practicing heroism is a healthy habit that should be practiced regularly for people to move away from their darker side. Imagine that AI developed by human beings becomes an instrument to unleash the heroic potential of each person. Maybe that is the way to plant talent.
Also published on Medium.