Tech CEOs Want Every Worker to Have a Permanent, Publicly-Available Job Performance File
It is also in line with a growing trend among tech companies that, spurred by work-from-home and hybrid work, are increasingly interested in quantifying employee performance. The most prominent example is Coinbase introducing an app so employees can constantly rate each other’s performances, a scenario even the normally cheery TechCrunch said “sounds rough.”
Over the last several years, there has been a boom in employee management software solutions such as Workday, Lattice, CultureAmp that are used across thousands of companies for performance reviews and other sensitive HR tasks. Technologically speaking, what Youakim and Hoffman are talking about is opening those confidential resources—or some condensed version of them that can be easily digested and analyzed—up to everyone. None of these HR software companies have indicated that they have any intention of doing this.
Laszlo Bock, Google’s former head of people operations—its term for HR—once described hiring as “a complete random mess.” In a 2013 interview he said, “Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship.” At its most charitable, the idea Hoffman and Youakim outlined would be to inject logic and statistical rigor to this random mess. But, experts who have studied hiring extensively draw a different conclusion, that it would allow this complete, random mess to follow workers their entire careers, affecting their job prospects, earning potential, and their broader lives.
This is widely acknowledged in HR circles today. The Society for Human Resource Management, the main professional society for HR professionals, specifically says that job performance reviews are not trustworthy and often demonstrate bias.
Carhart echoed these concerns. “Many companies’ employee performance management and assessment processes are ripe with bias, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies. And even while the HR industry has made great strides—and will continue to do so—to address these challenges, the fact remains that not all companies judge success and failure, good performance and poor performance, in the same way. They also aren’t measuring employees in the same way, on the same scale, or tracking the same metrics.”
This echoed a point Hausknecht made about the co-op of data-sharing companies. It assumes people don’t change, that jobs require similar attributes, that a person’s experience at one company is relevant to another where they will be in a different environment with a different manager and different company culture. It assumes the problem to be solved is attracting the “right” worker, which is the wrong question. Google found that, as a result of its study, it was much easier and more effective to help underperforming managers improve rather than hiring new people. The problem, in other words, is not hiring more loyal workers, but fixing bad leaders.
More to the point, the idea of scoring workers across companies, Carhart argues, is regressive, pushing the HR industry backwards. “Performance abilities should be based on alignment to company culture, quality of management, and opportunities for growth,” he said in an email. “The idea of having ’a score’ goes back to when HR was seen as having a one-directional function and purpose—to be a resource to the company—as opposed to where we are now, where HR and People functions are strategic business partners to help facilitate the kind of people success that ultimately drives business success.”
Or, to put it a different way, “Just because we can track it, collect it, and ask about it,” Hausknecht said, “doesn’t necessarily mean we should.”
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