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Mining for Quitters Expand / Collapse
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Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 2:37 PM
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"Do we not give poor managers a tool to help them get better? This can show them that they aren't being attentive enough. Or it can alert an upper manager that lower managers aren't doing their jobs.

I'm not saying it's the best thing, it's just a tool. A hammer can be a weapon, it can be misused with screws, or it can be a tool for nails. You make of it what you will."




I agree with you for the most part. I have no problem if it was used as a proactive method to identify a problem. My fear is that it could actually contribute to deterioration of the people skills of some managers.







Post #732615
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 4:13 PM
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Game changing engineers don't quit or get hired most are given blank checks with or without ranges to fill in, when Microsoft needed ANSI C++ experts most named their own salary. Google hired a Microsoft employee but he cannot join Google for two years per his Microsoft contract.

Amazon became retail power house by sending a suitcase full of dollars to Arkansas, hired 25 Walmart relational calculus employees, Walmart promptly sued in federal court the next day. When the case settled Walmart got cargo logistics from Amazon so today Walmart online is a separate store which Walmart employees call our competition without staff. Numbers cannot show when life changing pay checks will be offered.



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Post #732646
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 5:12 PM


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Mad Hacker (6/10/2009)
My fear is that it could actually contribute to deterioration of the people skills of some managers.


I have no doubt that will happen with some people. Not sure there's any way to ever fix that.







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Post #732661
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 6:15 PM


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GSquared (6/10/2009)
So, in other words, no human anywhere should use any tool for anything, because it will cause the loss of responsibility and "the human touch".


I don't believe anyone even came close to inferring such a thing. I believe the point trying to be made is that a tool to find potential quitters will certainly be used by many managers to further distance themselves for correctly managing their people.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

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Post #732682
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 6:36 PM


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GSquared (6/10/2009)
BUT, in a company with thousands of employees, can top management, or even upper middle management, actually get to personally know every employee?


Absolutely agreed. I didn't say they needed to get to personally know every employee. I said to talk with people in person. For situations such as that you've cited, things like departmental "town hall" meetings by upper managment (right up to the GM at Raytheon 20 years ago) and an open door policy from immediate management right to the GM will provide much more value than a computer program. I ask you, what will the computer criteria be for determining if a Jeff or a Gus are getting ready to leave a company? Proper management will sense it long before any computer even has enough data to suggest it.


--Jeff Moden
"RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for "Row-By-Agonizing-Row".

First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column."

(play on words) "Just because you CAN do something in T-SQL, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T." --22 Aug 2013

Helpful Links:
How to post code problems
How to post performance problems
Post #732688
Posted Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:42 PM


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The criteria comes from the scientific method. Take some data about people that left, people that didn't, build a model. It will be wrong, gather more data, tweak, etc.

Will managers know first? They should, but they might now. People keep lots of stuff from managers that might come out from a model. And some people might not fit the model, but the manager knows they're quitting.

It's just another tool, and I think a valid one. Not necessarily the main one, but one to assist a manager.







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Post #732735
Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009 4:07 AM
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Steve Jones - Editor (6/10/2009)
The criteria comes from the scientific method. Take some data about people that left, people that didn't, build a model. It will be wrong, gather more data, tweak, etc.

Will managers know first? They should, but they might now. People keep lots of stuff from managers that might come out from a model. And some people might not fit the model, but the manager knows they're quitting.

It's just another tool, and I think a valid one. Not necessarily the main one, but one to assist a manager.


The scientific method is much more then just sampling data and correcting the model afterward. As I explained before you need a model that includes all the actions based on the predictions the model provided before processing said feedback information. If you don't you can reinforce false predictions based on initial wrong assumptions to become true over time! And for this to be effective you have to split identified groups. Double blind and act differently on each of the previously grouped subgroups (to create combination's and get enough data and eliminate noise).

This all is of course is impossible in human to human interactions like these. But if we leave that fact out and assume a company to do the tests scientifically you run into other issues. People need to have the idea that they are actually doing real work, so simulated companies don't work! To allow for meaningful data you need a large real company and huge sums of money that acts like a profit motivated entity but at the same time is willing to make a substantial loss during the scientific tests. It can backfire after all, or they can't downsize during hard times without compromising the quality of the data.

I very much doubt that Google can incorporate its own decisions back into the model along with the feedback. I even doubt that in human to human interactions it is possible to classify every important interaction in such a way you can use the data reliably (maybe in a lab with hidden observers and cameras, but not a regular work floor).

See a pattern to the science argument here?

Numbers end up given a meaning based on to little and much too tainted data with initial assumptions on top. And then a human is going to use these number for further processing..it is insanity IMHO.
Post #732876
Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009 7:28 AM


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peter (6/10/2009)
GSquared,


I don't think the people that object to software selecting people are against tools and progress. That out of the way, you bring your experience with a system you made to the table. By doing this you seem to think that your sales support software and its desired outcome are a good analogy of what Google does with its employees. Consequently you expect a similar outcome in Google's case.

There are however some important differences IMHO.

The relation "Customer - Salesperson/Company" is quite different from "Employee - Manager/Employer".

It is actually the reverse of what your experience is. The Company is in fact the customer of the employee that provides its services to the company! The sales person does not even fit the analogy, nor does the manager.

The cost/benefit/responsibility structure of the tool users in this case are very different. Where the sales person cannot go wrong by having to many customers (by paying a little too much attention), the manager has to deal with competing forces and do as much as possible with as few people as he can and on a strict budget. This puts pressure on him to use the tool in ways it is not intended to be used.

On top of it the relation sales person customer is much less personal as the relationship employee and employer (what a misnomer, that cloud so many minds).

In short your tool doesn't run into the same ethic problems as Google's. The effect of a sales tool that motivates more action on the part of the sales persons is always a positive for the company and its customers. It is not so in manager hands as the manager has many suppliers "under his command" and conflicting targets.


I have no doubts that the tool could be used unethically or in ways other than what's intended. On the other hand, I think that's a spurious argument when it comes to whether the tool should be used or not in the first place.

The question is not does it have the possibility of being misused. The question is, is it more prone to misuse than human memory and attention, or not?

Let's say a manager has six people that directly answer to him, and he misremembers that Joe is getting $60k/year and thinks that Bob is the on earning that much, when Bob is actually getting $70k/year. Now, it turns out that the fair-market-value of the job that Joe and Bob are doing is $65k/year. Which one is more likely to quit and seek greener pastures? The one getting less than normal pay or the one getting more? The manager realizes that one of his employees is getting less than FMV and starts looking into whether or not he needs to give Bob a raise. He finds out Bob is getting more than FMV, but that Bob actually deserves that because of various factors, and considers the situation handled. He thinks he misremembered Bob's pay. Then Joe suddenly quits because he's been job hunting and got something that pays $62/year.

The manager, suffering from a relatively normal human lapse of memory, just lost a potentially valuable employee. If he'd received an automated e-mail from a computer system that tracks this kind of thing, he'd have checked out Joe, found that he was earning less than he's worth (in this situation), and recommended a raise.

Now, one attitude being expressed here is that the manager messed up when he mixed up Joe and Bob, and he should now probably be fired and replaced. I use Outlook to track meetings, thus, I sympathize with the manager on a simple mistake like that. If he does it routinely, that's another thing, but if it's the usual human occassional error, I'll be happy to help him develop/aquire tools that help overcome that.


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Post #733012
Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009 7:41 AM


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Jeff Moden (6/10/2009)
GSquared (6/10/2009)
BUT, in a company with thousands of employees, can top management, or even upper middle management, actually get to personally know every employee?


Absolutely agreed. I didn't say they needed to get to personally know every employee. I said to talk with people in person. For situations such as that you've cited, things like departmental "town hall" meetings by upper managment (right up to the GM at Raytheon 20 years ago) and an open door policy from immediate management right to the GM will provide much more value than a computer program. I ask you, what will the computer criteria be for determining if a Jeff or a Gus are getting ready to leave a company? Proper management will sense it long before any computer even has enough data to suggest it.


Don't disagree with you about the need for human involvement in the process. I just think a system that can do things like track average national and local salaries and compare those to current salaries for employees would be a good thing. There are plenty of metrics like that that can be more easily tracked by a computer than by a person.

No computer will know that Gus' morale is out the bottom and digging a new coal mine, but it will know that he's never yet had a performance review, that his salary is below average for the area, that he has fewer projects than his work capacity, that he spends far too much time on sites like this one during working hours, and that there are job offerings in the area at equal or better pay. A manager should know some of these things as well, perhaps all of them, but if the manager is so burried in meetings that he has about 1 hour per week that's not "busy" per his schedule in Outlook/Exchange, and that hour is spent putting out fires because he's recently lost over 75% of his department in layoffs, the manager might appreciate an alert from a system that helps track these things. An incompetent manager might go, "Gus is a risk right now, let's dump him and see if we can get someone cheaper". A good manager might go, "Let's spend my one-hour-per-week with Gus next week and see if there's a problem, and what we can do about it if there is".

If you check my posts on many of Steve's editorials about new technologies, you'll see that I am fervently opposed to anything that tries to replace human judgement on human things, and that I'm in favor of things that assist or support human judgement on human things. It's the same in this case.

If Google was talking about replacing all of their junior managers with a database and data mining platform, I'd say they were insane. They're not.

Will the system be misused/abused in some cases? Of course. The question, as always, is will it have the potential to do more good than harm? Potential to do more good than harm.


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Post #733021
Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009 8:05 AM
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GSquared,


We think alike on the ethical frequency from what I read. The difference op opinion here is in the fine details and some of the details are missing as Google did not disclose that information. I am assuming that because they made it public they intend to make some sort of product out of it that is more then just a formula. If they do not, why go out in the open and make it visible Google is loosing talent?

Because I believe they will try to make a product out of it, I also reason it will be some sort of adaptive process in order to fit different style of companies. This requires input and a solid understanding of the modeling behind the software. This is where I see great opportunities for things to go wrong and that least me to conclude the whole attempt has negative build-in properties.

I fully agree with you that if the rules the formula/software follows are as you outlay there is little risk of abuse and it will have some positive effect in most hands. It wouldn't be more then a reporting tool like the tons that already exist in companies, but what then is all the fuss about? Why go public with it?

At least you now know where I am coming from :)
Post #733040
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