At the Harvard Business Review, MIT research scientist Kalyan Veeramachaneni details some research into the question, “What would it take for businesses to realize the full potential of their data repositories with machine learning?” One key challenge he identifies is that “machine learning experts often didn’t build their work around the final objective—deriving business value”:
In most cases, predictive models are meant to improve efficiency, increase revenue, or reduce costs. But the folks actually working on the models rarely ask “what value does this predictive model provide, and how can we measure it?” Asking this question about value proposition often leads to a change in the original problem formulation, and asking such questions is often more useful than tweaking later stages of the process. At a recent panel filled with machine learning enthusiasts, I polled the audience of about 150 people, asking “How many of you have built a machine learning model?” Roughly one-third raised their hands. Next, I asked, “How many of you have deployed and/or used this model to generate value, and evaluated it?” No one had their hand up.
In other words, the machine learning experts wanted to spend their time building models, not processing massive datasets or translating business problems into prediction problems.
To get more value from their data, Veeramachaneni concludes, companies “need to focus on accelerating human understanding of data, scaling the number of modeling questions they can ask of that data in a short amount of time, and assessing their implications.” These are valuable principles for talent analytics leaders to keep in mind.
Artificial intelligence is poised to transform the way we work, both in ways we’ve long imagined, and in ways we can’t. Because AI and machine learning are emerging technologies, the talent that knows how to build and use them is currently in short supply. Compounding that problem, Cade Metz writes at Wired, is that large corporations with massive war chests are acquiring AI startups left and right, hiring up all the top talent and leaving none left for the little guy:
Not everyone can go out and grab thirty AI-happy astrophysicists. And if you can’t do that, the talent pool becomes very small very quickly, since these machine learning techniques are so new and so different from standard software development. Even the big players talk about the tiny talent pool: Microsoft research chief Peter Lee says the cost of acquiring a top AI researcher is comparable to the cost of acquiring an NFL quarterback.
Back in June, General Electric hinted that it was considering doing away with annual raises and replacing them with some sort of more targeted system. If it were to do so, GE would be abandoning a practice followed by the vast majority of US employers, some 90 percent of which give out raises to all employees on a fixed annual date, while only 1.2 percent of companies increase base pay on a discretionary timetable. However, other organizations are also having second thoughts about the annual raise, which they say is too small to meaningfully motivate or differentiate employees, Rachel Emma Silverman discovers at the Wall Street Journal:
Average merit raises for U.S. workers have hovered around 3% for the past five years, as employers have kept the budgets for raises relatively low, despite improving labor markets. Pay surveys report companies expect few changes next year if inflation stays low. That doesn’t give companies much to work with. Moreover, managers are reluctant to increase base pay further because higher payroll costs could result in heftier prices for customers, says Tom McMullen, a senior compensation partner with Korn Ferry Hay Group.
Laura Sejen, managing director of talent and rewards at consultancy Willis Towers Watson, urges employers to “eliminate merit raises as we’ve known them” and focus on meaningful bonuses for high performers. … “The annual raise is like smearing peanut butter one millimeter deep for everybody. It’s better to smear the peanut butter where you see really strong contributions happening,” says Kris Duggan, the chief executive of BetterWorks, a three-year-old management software firm.
Replacing regular raises for everyone with bonuses only for high performers carries risks of its own, however, as Bloomberg’s Rebecca Greenfield notes:
At New America Weekly, Tami Forman, the executive director of Path Forward, observes critically that many employers put supportive policies in place for their employees, but then let their organization’s managers or culture undermine them:
If we were to investigate all the moments when policy and practice get misaligned, I think the first place to look is executive disconnect and even hubris. Too many people in the C-Suite believe that if they say something is important then the rank-and-file will automatically understand that it’s important. Too often they fail to connect the policy to corporate goals in a way that makes it clear that the practice is important to success. Generally speaking, companies adopt family friendly policies to attract and retain the most talented employees. That won’t happen if the company gets a reputation for not allowing those same employees to use family friendly benefits. Even the public relations benefits of a good policy will be undermined if employees to take to sites like Glassdoor to complain. When executives fail to connect these dots, is it any wonder that line managers fall back onto the practices that are more comfortable and familiar?
A top fund manager in the UK is getting rid of bonuses at his firm and switching to flat salaries instead, the Guardian reports:
Neil Woodford is putting all staff at Oxford-based Woodford Investment Management on a flat salary this year. His move won support from another senior figure in the fund management world, Daniel Godfrey, who said his new venture will not pay bonuses. … Craig Newman, chief executive of Woodford Investment Management, said: “While bonuses are an established feature of the financial sector, Neil and I wanted to take the opportunity to do something different that supports the firm’s culture and ethos of challenging the status quo.
“We concluded that bonuses are largely ineffective in influencing the right behaviours. There is little correlation between bonus and performance and this is backed by widespread academic evidence. Many studies conclude that bonuses don’t work as a motivator, as expectation is already built in. Behavioural studies also suggest that bonuses can lead to short-term decision making and wrong behaviours.”
Newman’s explanation reflects a conclusion some experts have drawn lately about the pay of CEOs and other executives.
Until recently, personal care products manufacturer Kimberly-Clark had a longstanding reputation for lifetime employment and job security. “That’s over,” the Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Weber writes:
One of the company’s goals now is “managing out dead wood,” aided by performance-management software that helps track and evaluate salaried workers’ progress and quickly expose laggards. Turnover is now about twice as high it was a decade ago, with approximately 10% of U.S. employees leaving annually, voluntarily or not, the company said. Armed with personalized goals for employees and large quantities of data, Kimberly-Clark said it expects employees to keep improving—or else. “People can’t duck and hide in the same way they could in the past,” said [Scott Boston, vice president of human resources].
It has been a steep climb for a company that once resisted conflict and fostered a paternalistic culture that inspired devotion from its workers. …