How Google Hires: Why Taking the Human out of HR Is a Bad Idea

March 5, 2013

How Google Hires: Why Taking the Human out of HR Is a Bad Idea

Does Google’s focus on recruiting analytics and data represent the future of hiring? Let’s hope not. Here’s why taking the “human” out of HR is a bad idea.

We live in a time where we can engineer almost anything we need to: produce, drugs, people, diamonds — you name it and we will find a way to modify and reproduce it. So is it so far off to think this will happen to the work force, as well?
If you have read some of the articles written about Google lately, you are probably aware that they have a predominately data-driven HR function. At Google, their HR is not called HR, but “People Operations.” The name itself already sounds analytical and takes the “human” element right out of HR. The workplace has evolved and grown thanks to human relationships, yet now here we are looming on the horizon of taking relationships out of the equation.

How Google Hires: Recruiting Analytics vs. Instinct

Google has replaced instincts with algorithms and facts. This seems like a great idea in theory, but it is my belief that we should not be tampering with human instincts. In an article by Dr. John Sullivan, “How Google Is Using People Analytics to Completely Reinvent HR,” he states that the People Operations team:

Produces many products, including employee surveys that are not anonymous, and dashboards. It also attempts to identify insightful correlations and to provide recommended actions. The goal is to substitute data and metrics for the use of opinions.

With this method, Google is essentially arguing that opinion and “gut instinct” are null. The company is relying on numbers to determine a number of things including employee retention, leadership qualities, and diversity. This all seems very futuristic when you think about it. We are no longer saying “ Hey, this guy is and up-and-comer. We need him at this company.” Instead, we are looking at data and determining how an individual is expected to perform. This is a slippery slope. Yes ,Google is a large company, and, yes, they cannot be expected to read every single resume that comes their way, but abandoning the human aspect of human resources seems drastic.

There’s an Algorithm for Everything — Or Is There?

faces_aloneIf we rely on an algorithm to give us the ideal workforce then at the extreme we have engineered a “pure” workforce that leaves little or no room for error. We have the perfect proportions of men to women and diversity. We have pre-determined who our leaders are and who our star performers are.
Reducing hiring to analytics is not hiring at all — it is simply plugging people into an equation. This would work if we were using robotics, but the fact is we are using people in the algorithm, and people have a mind of their own. Yes, you may think you hired the next leader for your team because your data says so, but in reality this person may talk-the-talk and then do next to nothing in their job.
On the other hand, there are always those you hire thinking that they will simply plug away, and then they blossom into great successes and become management material. Your gut instincts on people outweigh what the computer tells us. We are more than the sum of an equation.
While every HR function should look at data trends, we cannot lose sight that some exceptional people can fall through the cracks if we rely heavily on metrics. Companies need a soul. They need passionate people, and they need people who believe in their cause. We cannot gather this information from data. It is my belief that we should keep the human in human resources.

Senior Corporate Recruiter

<strong>Lindsey Gurian</strong> is the Senior Corporate Recruiter at <a href="">Acquia</a>. She was previously a Senior Talent Specialist at Sonian, responsible for recruiting initiatives at both the firm and its portfolio companies.