Companies are increasingly using algorithms to manage and control individuals not by force, but rather by nudging them into desirable behavior -- in other words, learning from their personalized data and altering their choices in some subtle way. Since the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2017, for example, it is widely known that the flood of targeted advertising and highly personalized content on Facebook may not only nudge users into buying more products, but also to coax and manipulate them into voting for particular political parties. University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein popularized the term "nudge" in 2008, but due to recent advances in AI and machine learning, algorithmic nudging is much more powerful than its non-algorithmic counterpart. With so much data about workers' behavioral patterns at their fingertips, companies can now develop personalized strategies for changing individuals' decisions and behaviors at large scale. These algorithms can be adjusted in real-time, making the approach even more effective.
A century ago, Frederick Taylor's Scientific Management laid the foundations for modern HR. His central premise was that organizations should turn their workplaces into real-world psychology labs, measuring and monitoring employees' every move in order to boost their performance and reduce their stress levels. The paradigm was revolutionary, and led famous industrialists like Henry Ford to unprecedented innovations in human engineering, with the creation of the seminal assembly line, and a science-infused formula for optimizing roles, tasks, and job design to enhance employee productivity. Big companies, such as the Ford Motor Company, became a testing ground for applied psychology, and evidence-based HR was born. Fast forward 100 years or so, and it is all footnotes to Taylor.
Over the past two decades, technology has transformed our world and our workplaces. COVID-19 has only accelerated the implementation of technological change and innovation by employers. One significant development in the workplace is the introduction of artificial intelligence ("AI"), which includes technologies such as automated decision making ("ADM") and machine learning ("ML"). In light of these capabilities, it is wise for employers to stay abreast of the latest developments and opportunities – being an early adopter of new technology can often mean saved costs and a competitive advantage. Nonetheless, it is equally important for employers to be aware of the ethical and legal risks associated with these technologies, as a relatively recent and rapidly evolving phenomenon.
As more and more of us work from home and organizations face an increase in data breaches, it's no surprise that security software sales are increasing. At the same time, employers are also worried about keeping their culture intact, and ensuring employees feel trusted, valued and united. Employers can tackle these worries by meticulously deploying sophisticated software with complete transparency with the intention of bringing teams together. There is no question that executives need to thoughtfully consider how to handle the deepening security gaps due to the sudden change in the nature of work coupled with disparate computer systems. There are sophisticated software tools that can catch attacks from malignant employees as well as predict how to train and help employees when bad things happen due to accidental employee behavior, like sending a mistaken file or leaving a digital door unlocked.