Big Brother of HRM


There are technological offerings in all divisions and thus it is probably obvious that these offerings have also increasingly reached the HR Management. In this regard, the abundance of diverse measurement practices of potential candidates and employees has increasingly been in the forefront. In Europe, we are thus quickly being confronted by legal framework conditions when it involves the collection of the employees’ dynamic data – conditions which, for example, do not exist in the USA and Japan. During the course of the “Project Oxygen” management study, Google has identified eight central management characteristics and set up its own training program for managers. These data are constantly being enriched and are supposed to ultimately also serve the purpose of finding the optimal team composition. However, is our affinity for technology perhaps going a little too far? Where can the technology in personnel management be helpful to us?


Antoinette Weibel, Simon Schafheitle and Isabel Ebert have dedicated themselves to this theme in their essay in the OrganizationDevelopment (03/19) journal under the title “Gold Rush Fever in Personnel Management?”. The data and research results on which they were based were collected during the interdisciplinary NFP75 research project called “Big Data or Big Brother”. From May to July 2018, they conducted the first “Swiss People Management Analytics Survey”. In this context, the management employees in HR were surveyed. The random sampling was composed of large and very large companies who, based upon their size, also had an interest in the usage of technologies during the HR controlling process. The goal of the survey was to obtain an overview of the data ratification technologies that were already being used. Even if this study was done in Switzerland, I think that the results would also be applicable to many Central European countries.


Today, we already find technologies in the automated search process and the matching of the employees’ skills to the job descriptions. More and more, RFID technologies are being used for electronic access controls, but also for the geolocation of the employees. However, more than 61 percent of the companies use technologies for online-supported surveys or feedback tools. Using technology in order to generate data and/or to help ourselves to obtain insights from a large quantity of data is certainly very valuable support. But each person who works with statistics also knows that, in the case of data analytics, we are speaking in generalizations and individual cases and/or exceptions can be easily neglected owing to the sheer quantity of the data. Thus, we must learn to technically understand these data ratification processes in order to also be able to critically scrutinize them and/or efficiently use them. The individual person is too multi-faceted and too complex in order to be able to describe him with a general explanation.


Oftentimes, there are no objections to raise against the results of the aforementioned study or even if the Oxygen Project describes the characteristics of a good manager. However, in my opinion, the applications and results in this area are oftentimes too simplified. But let’s then take the example of the ideal Manager: Accordingly to Google, this is a coach who promotes his own team and does not rely on micromanagement. The Manager is productive and results-oriented, communicates well and openly, and shares information with other people. He has a clear vision and strategy for the team and possesses important technical abilities which help him to advise the team. Do you have any objections to this? Probably not and nonetheless you know that it is much more complicated to lead and we must always repeatedly adapt our management style. Teams and their players are at different places in their maturity and development. Different times require a different management style. In this context, coaching is not always the best choice – it is not always good and prudent to share all information with everybody.


Data technologies are today also already being used increasingly in organization development and in change management. But here, it is also valid – as in personnel management – to do this with restraint. Even if a slogan says that “Data are the New Oil, Information the New Gold”, then we may also not forget that today energy production is no longer done exclusively from fossil energy sources. This is also important to keep in mind in personnel and change management. Data can help us to obtain energy for the change dynamics but, in this alone, we will not be able to ensure success. We should learn once again to focus more on the human being in the process because, in the end, it is the individual who decides whether he will embrace this path as well.

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