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Predictive Analytics and Human Resources: The Prospect of a Dangerous Combination

In a recent USA Today article by Rodd Wagner entitled “How Your Boss Could Be Spying On You,” Mr. Wagner provides a convincing discussion of the risk and liabilities a company faces should they decide to use statistics and computers to make decisions about their employee’s performance. It all looked so simple in the movie Moneyball; a statistician provides the coach with historical data on aspects of player performance behavior that more closely correlates with winning games than batting averages and home runs. Worked like a charm. Player on-base statistics provided a much better measure of winning than other statistics.

The analysis and prediction of human behavior has been practiced for many years and applied to many environments. Past shopping behavior has been evaluated to anticipate future product development and inventory.  Similarly, manufacturing decisions and raw material acquisition can be managed using predictive data derived from consumer purchasing behavior. There is little doubt that predictive analytics has been helpful in many aspects of improving business decisions.

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How to Identify the Behaviors That Lead to Success

What is a “behavior analyst?” Behavior analysts are psychologists who specialize in arranging (designing) physical and social environments to elicit useful, productive, value-added human behavior(s). Behavior analysts are experts in changing human behavior. When I use the word behavior, I am referring to something a human says (verbal behavior) or does (non-verbal, physical behavior), and behavior analysts work with fine grained, very specific behaviors when the situation requires them to do so.

In business and industry, behavior analysts help organizations improve human performance. The core purpose of quality initiatives and management development efforts is to change employee behaviors. U.S. corporations spend billions of dollars trying to encourage their employees to do things differently (change their behavior)—to come up with new ideas, work more safely, improve interpersonal effectiveness (talk to employees in a manner that encourages engagement and commitment to the company’s performance goals), and do things to eliminate waste.

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The 3 Critical Requirements for a World Class Safety Culture

Number 1 – All Employees Participate in Safety Management

When Behavior Based Safety (BBS) first appeared, it was often referred to as “Employee Driven Safety.” Many consulting companies implemented a process that was completely installed and administered by frontline employees. Although the idea was new to safety professionals, the employee participation movement had begun years earlier with Quality Circles and rapidly matured with additions from the Toyota Production System – referred to as TQM (Total Quality Management).

Although the value of employee participation was presented as an epiphany for Senior Leaders, organizational development professionals had actively promoted the use of human capital to improve quality, productivity, and profitability. The migration of this strategy to safety was just a matter of time. In the beginning, safety had been managed by one or two safety professionals using lagging indicators and crisis to prompt action and the attention of leaders. This is safety management by reaction and is basically indefensible as a strategy for preventing accidents and injuries.

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Performance Enhancing Conversations are Being Implemented with Safety and Quality

The shelves of America’s largest bookstores are overstocked with new books about leadership. It has become a national preoccupation keeping management consultants, corporate trainers and public workshops on leadership very busy. America is hungry for leaders and there appears to be many different interpretations of what a leader is. There is no consensus about what a leader “is,” and almost nothing about what a leader is supposed to do.

This confusion is created by the large number of leadership theories being promoted by theorists, publications, and consults. Any company seeking to turn its managers into leaders is going to find a consultant or workshop that suits their taste.

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