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    Entries in Technology (367)

    Thursday
    Jun152017

    Learn a new word: Positive Predictive Value

    Predictive analytics and the application of algorithms to help make 'people' decisions in organizations has been a subject of development and discussion for several years now. The most common applications of predictive tech in HR have been to assess and rank candidates for a given job opening, to estimate an individual employee's flight risk, and to attempt to identify those employees with high potential or are likely to become high performers.

    These kinds of use cases and others and the technologies that enable them present HR and business leaders with new and really powerful tools and capabilities that can, if applied intelligently, provide a competitive edge realized from the better matching, hiring, and deploying of talent.

    But you probably know all this, if you are reading an HR Tech blog anyway, and perhaps you are already applying predictive HR tech in your organization today. But there is another side or aspect of prediction algorithms that perhaps you have not considered, and I admit I have not really either - namely how often these predictive tools are wrong, and somewhat related, how we want to guide these tools to better understand how they can be wrong.

    All that takes us to today's Learn a new word - 'Positive Predictive Value (PPV)'

    From our pals at Wikipedie:

    The positive and negative predictive values (PPV and NPV respectively) are the proportions of positive and negative results in statistics and diagnostic tests that are true positive and true negative results, respectively. The PPV and NPV describe the performance of a diagnostic test or other statistical measure. A high result can be interpreted as indicating the accuracy of such a statistic.

    A good way to think about PPV and NPV is using the example of an algorithm called COMPAS which attempts to predict the likelihood that a convicted criminal is likely to become a repeat offender, and has been used in some instances by sentencing judges when considering how harshly or leniently to sentence a given criminal.

    The strength of a tool like COMPAS is that when accurate, it can indicate to the judge to give a longer sentence to a convict that is highly likely to be a repeat offender, and perhaps be more lenient on an offender that the algorithm assesses to be less likely to repeat their crimes once released.

    But the opposite, of course is also true. If COMPAS 'misses', and it sometimes does, then it can lead judges to give longer sentences to the wrong offenders, and shorter sentences to offenders who end up repeating their bad behaviors. And here is where PPV really comes into play.

    Because algorithms like the ones used to create COMPAS, and perhaps the ones that your new HR technology uses to 'predict' the best candidates for a job opening, tend to be more or less wrong, (when they are wrong), in one direction. Either they generate too many 'matches', i.e., recommend too many candidates as likely 'good hires' for a role, including some who really are not good matches at all. Or they produce too many false negatives, i.e. they screen out too many candidates, including some that would indeed be good fits for the role and good hires.

    Back to our Learn a new word - Positive Predictive Value. A high PPV result for the candidate matching algorithm indicates that a high number of the positives, or matches, are indeed matches. In other words, there are not many 'bad matches' and you can in theory trust the algorithm to help guide your hiring decisions. But, and this can be a big but, a high PPV can often produce a high negative predictive value, or NPV.

    The logic is fairly straightforward. If the algorithm is tuned to ensure that any positives are highly likely to truly be positives, then fewer positives will be generated, and more of the negatives, (the candidates you never call or interview), may have indeed been actual positives, or good candidates after all.

    Whether it is a predictive tool that the judge may use when sentencing, or one your hiring managers may use when deciding who to interview, it is important to keep this balance between false positives and incorrect negatives in mind.

    Think of it this way - would you rather have a few more candidates than you may need get screened 'in' to the process, or have a few that should be 'in' get screened 'out', because you want the PPV to be as high as possible?

    There are good arguments for both sides I think, but the more important point is that we think about the problem in the first place. And that we push back on any provider of predictive HR technology to talk about their approach to PPV and NPV when they design their systems.

    Monday
    Jun122017

    Notes from the road #22 - A long, strange trip it's been edition

    Writing this (brief) dispatch from the Delta Sky Club (again), as I wait for the final leg on the trip back from what has been a long, interesting, challenging, and incredibly rewarding two-week trip Phoenix - Shanghai - Tokyo - (back to) Phoenix - and then finally home.

    In Phoenix, I attended the Virgin Pulse Thrive Summit, which was a really fantastic event. In case you have missed them, you can listen to two HR Happy Hour Shows that Trish McFarlane and I recorded from the event here and here. Virgin Pulse is the leader in employee wellbeing, and unlike some other solution providers in the space, Virgin Pulse is making real strides on showing (with data), the connection between wellbeing and improved business results. Thanks as always to them for having myself and Trish out at the event, and for supporting the HR Happy Hour Show.

     

    Looking forward to a great #thrivesummit with my friends from Virgin Pulse #HRHappyHour

    A post shared by Steve Boese (@steveboese) on May 30, 2017 at 3:09pm PDT

     

    From there, we headed to Shanghai for the 2nd Annual HR Tech China Conference. The 2nd event was even bigger and better than the first. And I am convinced Shanghai is my new favorite city. You can read some of my thoughts about the event here, and later this week Trish and I will share even more from and about the event on an HR Happy Hour Show we will record later this week. All I can say to my Chinese friends, old and new, is "xiexie" - Thank You!

     

    @trish_mcfarlane and I Heading in to present at #HRTechChina

    A post shared by Steve Boese (@steveboese) on Jun 5, 2017 at 5:42pm PDT

     

    From there, I headed to Tokyo for some business as well as some time to do some touring and sightseeing. Another amazingly interesting and fun place, great and welcoming people, and lots of opportunity to do more in the future. I liked it so much I may have to go back again soon!

     

    #tokyo

    A post shared by Steve Boese (@steveboese) on Jun 9, 2017 at 8:06pm PDT

     

    It has been the longest business trip I have been on in ages, and while I sit here in the MSP Sky Club anxious to get home, I also anticipate the next trip back to Asia - it truly has been, professionally and personally, the most incredibly rewarding trip I have taken in years.

    And to everyone who is waiting to hear back from me about something or other - I promise to dig in to the backlog of emails and texts and get back to you soon.

    That is if I actually get home tonight. If I get stuck here in MSP, then all bets are off.

    NOTE: In the time it has taken me to post this, I am delayed another hour...

    Thursday
    May182017

    Google and the interface of everywhere

    Google's big I/O event happened this week, and in customary fashion the search and technology giant made a bunch of interesting product announcements and made public for the first time some brand new solutions and innovations. Folks in the HR/Recruiting space will largely be most interested in and perhaps concerned by Google's announcement that it intends to launch 'Google for Jobs', a consolidated job search tool (powered by Google's search technology at the core), for job seekers that will surface job listing from a number of sources like LinkedIn, Facebook, and CareerBuilder. And while that announcement certainly was interesting, and needs to be top of mind for folks who run or heavily promote their jobs on job boards like Indeed, to me, it was not the most interesting thing to come out of I/O.

    First, Google announced the forthcoming Lens app, a tool that essentially makes a smart phone camera more intelligent by allowing you to learn about a product by taking a picture of it, find out information about a performance by taking a photo of the name of the band, or connect to a wifi network by snapping a photo of the login and password information. This app is a nod to the increasing use of the camera/photo as not just a means of recording an image, but as a method for navigating the world and its objects and experiences around us.

    Second, Google announced additional places (beyond its Home device and its Pixel phone) and tools where its 'Assitant' app will be available - on iPhones for the first time, on more Android devices, and soon, in cars, refrigerators, and more. Google's near-term vision is to make Assistant available essentially everywhere, and to (ultimately), disconnect or break the bond between the smart phone, (and Android for that matter), and the Assistant capabilities.

    These two announcements combine to form the basis and the beginnings of a powerful service (Assistant), that eventually will seem "interface-less", or said differently, will be accessed via a variety of devices and methods - voice, images, touch screens, and sure, if you must, by typing commands into a keyboard. Who knows, maybe the next iteration of Google Glass, (remember that?), will be to largely function as a lens and continuous input stream to the Assistant. As you stroll around with Glass you can ask it for advice and information about where you are, the restaurant you are walking by, and who knows - maybe see a list of open jobs at the Cafe you are sitting in having a coffee.

    What is interesting about all this, to me, is the longer term implications it has for the tools and technologies that we use at the workplace. Consumer-driven technology innovation has been driving enterprise tech for a while now. You were using a smart phone or a tablet at home, before you ever did so for work. And I think the same thing will become true for this future world of the 'everywhere' interface to smart tools and services designed to help us navigate the world, and get things done.

    Smart phones exploded for work applications because (in part), we didn't want or need to be trapped to a desk and a computer in an office in order to get things done. Now, we are beginning to see what is coming 'next' - after the smart phone, when the technologies are all around us, in our ears, in the devices we interact with, and never more than a spoken 'Ok Google' away. What will be the first HR system to be fully integrated and accessible via voice, image, and even wearable tech? 

    I think it is tremendously exciting and fun. And way more interesting and powerful than a new website that aggregates online job listings. But if you have to talk about that, it is ok. I get it.

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    May162017

    The half-life of technology-based advantage

    ... keeps getting shorter and shorter.

    Take a look at the chart below which tracks the daily active users of the most recent 'next big thing', Snapchat, against the DAUs for a slightly older 'next big thing', Instagram - specifically Instagram's "Stories" feature, one designed as a pretty blatant copy of Snapchat's core use case.

    Here's the data then three quick points about what it reminds us about technology-driven competitive advantage.

    The chart is a couple of months old, especially for the Snapchat data, but the trends are holding up. Instagram essentially was able to surpass the DAUs of Snapchat's primary feature in less than one year. It is kind of hard to say what this means for Snapchat in the longer term, I imagine they will try and continue to innovate, (and I confess to not being a user of Snapchat, I tried two or three times and could never understand it), and perhaps reverse or at least slow these trends.

    But bigger picture, what does this 'story' (pun intended), remind us of?

    1. Almost every technological advantage can be copied by competitors, and sometimes copied very quickly. Snapchat had a 5-year or so head start and within months that advantage or distinction has disappeared. Technology, consumer or enterprise, is moving, adapting, innovating faster than ever.

    2. When considering/selecting/implementing enterprise tech, (like a new HR Tech solution), "features" or capability probably should not be the most important differentiating criteria. The HR solution providers across a wide range of domains are developing similar capabilities and features and even user experiences. I probably saw demos of four or five new enterprise learning management solutions in the last 18 months and they all look, feel, and act really similarly. In fact, if I had to do a 'blind' test, like the old Pepsi Challenge, I am not sure I would be able to tell them apart. 

    3. So if technological advantage, i.e. features should not be the most important criteria when evaluating technology then what should it be? Well, I know I have opined on this before, but I still submit HR leaders should be carefully evaluating the things that can't be as easily copied across providers. Elements like the implementation experience, customer service and support, the provider's vision of the future, and the extent to which the solution provider sees you as a true partner - in innovation and in business success. These are all critical elements, hard for competitors to copy, and admittedly, harder to assess on an RFP than a list of feature/functions.

    Ok, that's it - I'm out. Going to fire up Instagram. I heard today they copied the 'koala ears' filter from Snapchat. 

    That's what my selfies have been needing.

    Have a great day!

    Monday
    May152017

    HR Tech China #2 - Five Things I'm Looking Forward To

    In a few short weeks I am heading back to China to host and speak at the 2nd Annual HR Tech China event, this year being held June 6 - 7 at the Shanghai International Convention Center in Shangai, China.

    Last year's first HR Tech China event was incredibly memorable, interesting, and valuable, especially for the US-based folks that attended, as I don't think you can even begin to understand a place, business and organizational challenges, and its people without visiting in person. And even that, in a place as large, dynamic, and complex as China only gives you a first step towards really knowing a place and your opportunities there.

    And of all the places in the world where opportunity is present, I can't think of any one with more potential than China. The economy continues to grow and modernize, the appetite for new and innovative technologies are endless, and the desire by many US companies to expand both into the Chinese market, and out of the Chinese market by local firms, is dramatically expanding. 

    If you really, truly, expect to be a global company, then you almost have to be in China, I think.

    That said, I am incredibly excited to be heading back to China and for the 2nd HR Tech China event. And since no one asked, here are the five things I am looking forward to the most about the event and the trip.

    1. HR Tech China (the event) - last year's event was really incredible, and I am sure Year 2 will be even bigger and better. With an array of local Chinese HR leaders and experts, business and economic officials, and a wide variety of both local HR tech and services providers, as well as many of the large, global HR technology companies you know well, this event is perfectly suited for the Chinese and greater Asia HR leaders. The event is first-rate, and quickly becoming a leading event in the global HR tech space.

    2. The Food - Where to start? Easily three of the top ten 'best things I have ever tasted' have been on my trips to China. Peking Duck in Beijing, Hot and Sour Soup in Hong Kong, and spicy sea snails in Zhuhai I still dream about. I am going to eat everything on this trip. 

    3. Shanghai Disneyland - C'mon who does not love Disney? On the trip back from last year's HR Tech China I had the chance to stop in Hong Kong and visit the Disney theme park there. It was really fun and a great experience, and luckily on this year's trip I am going to make time to visit the newest Disney park, this one right in Shanghai. Everything I have seen and heard about Shanghai Disney is that it is really incredible and I can't wait to see it.

    4. The Flight - So a 14 or 16 hour flight might not sound like so much fun. But think of it this way - no emails, no text messages, no one bugging you for anything for the better part of day. A book, a movie or two, a glass of wine, a little sleep - sounds like a night you can only dream of having at home these days. Enjoy the solitude while it lasts.

    5. The People - I have met and look forward to seeing again, so many great people that are a part of HR Tech China. Nowhere have I felt more welcomed. Incredibly nice, generous, curious, motivated, and smart - that is how I would describe the people I have had a chance to get to know a little. Can't wait to see them again and make some new friends. Add me on WeChat!

    I know China seems like a far away place, and it kind of is, but each time I go, (and I hope that it will be more often than once a year in the future), it seems a little closer, and a little less far away each time.

    I know this blog does get readers from Asia and Australia and New Zealand, if anyone is interested in coming to the event in June in Shanghai, send me a note via the contact form on the left side bar and I will make sure you get the information you need.

    Have a great week!