HR professionals wear many hats, and one of them is crystal ball reader.
All hiring and promotion, and some firing, are based on predictions about the future. They take available data (resumes, interviews, references, background checks, etc.) and advise hiring managers on what kind of asset a person will be in the future. Will they interact well with other employees? Will they be a good manager? Will they keep company secrets? Will they show up on time?
Okay, let's put this all together. What happens when social networking analysis and predictive analytics are combined for HR goals?
Following the current trend lines, very soon social networking spiders and predictive analytics engines will be working night and day scanning the Internet and using that data to predict what every employee is likely to do in the future. This capability will simply be baked right in to HR software suites.
When the software decides that you're going to quit, steal company secrets, break the law, post something indecent on a social network or lie on your expense report, the supervising manager will be notified and action will be taken -- before you make the predicted transgression.
If you think that's unlikely, consider the following two facts. First, think about how fast we got to where we are today. Three years ago you had never heard of Twitter and were not a member of Facebook. Today, you could be passed over for a job because of something you or even someone else posted on one of these services.
Second, contrast personnel actions with legal actions. When you stand before the law accused of wrongdoing, you get to face your accuser. You can't legally be thrown in jail for bad character, poor judgment, or expectations of what you might do in the future. You have to actually break the law, and they have to prove it.
Personnel actions aren't anything like this. You don't get to "face your accuser." You can be passed over for hiring or promotion based on what kind of person you are or what they think you might do in the future. You don't have to actually violate company rules, and they don't have to prove it.
When it comes to firing you, the company merely has to weigh the risk of a wrongful termination lawsuit against the risk of your predicted future behavior.
If the social network scanning, predictive analytics software of the future decides that you are going to do something in future that's inconsistent with the company's interests, you're fired.
The practice of using available data to predict the future has always been a big part of HR. But now and increasingly, the tools are becoming monstrously sophisticated, efficient, powerful, far-reaching and invasive.
There's no way around it: The Minority Report Pre-crime concept is coming to HR.