Machine Learning Could Mean a Lot for People Management

Leave it to the robots to help organizations better manage people.

co_1202_fte_302Machine learning presents an opportunity for companies to efficiently and effectively complete structured back-office tasks. It also has the power to help managers perform their work at a higher level, and as a result, improve employee performance and engagement.

People management is rife with trouble zones, according to a VentureBeat article by BetterWorks CEO and Co-founder Kris Duggan, from ineffective performance management processes to inherent biases that strain workplace relations and stagnate development and advancement for diverse employee groups.

Smart machines could mitigate those issues. Duggan cited Accenture, SAP and Deloitte as companies that have done away with traditional performance management systems that included features like rankings in favor of technology to improve transparency around employee performance evaluations.

For instance, using machine learning to collect employee work data can paint a more holistic picture of a worker’s performance, without bias. Further, machine learning’s data collecting power can be used to improve managers’ coaching skills. While managers do more than just manage people in today’s work environment, they may be doing less to engage employees in professional development; offering workers timely feedback and recognition remains a necessity.

Not contingent on a manager’s biases — or perceived availability to coach — Duggan wrote that a machine learning tool that collects data around an employee’s actual work could prompt managers to give constructive criticism and praise when it’s relevant and warranted.

Leaders in the field of robotics, including Symphony Ventures Co-founder and Head of Strategy Ian Barkin, have said implementing machine learning in business will free up human workers to do the things they uniquely can do, like creative problem solving and dreaming up new products and services. In the case of people management, strategic use of robots and other smart machines could allow employees to worry less about bias and convoluted performance management processes and more about progressing toward their goals, while providing managers with the hard data needed to support their efforts.

Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email