Manager versus machine – or tech-enhanced management?

October 28, 2016

Show me the computer that can laugh at a good joke and maybe I’ll believe that machines are a better judge of character than humans.

However smart artificial intelligence has become, machines still struggle to interpret sentiment, subtlety and the trickiest things in human language: irony, double-meanings and a play on words.

“Did you hear the one about …?” Well, the machine might have heard it, but it certainly didn’t get it.

IBM’s supercomputer Watson showed what might be possible when it won the $1m jackpot on the quiz show Jeopardy back in 2011.

But Watson is far from mainstream business tech, nor within the price range of your typical small business.

So, let’s put aside the notion that anytime soon a machine is going to be better at managing people than … people.

Where machines can make a difference – beyond just plain automation of low-skill tasks – is in pattern-recognition.

They can quickly detect patterns that are hidden in deep data or are simply too complex for the human eye to see without hours of study.

Experiments in machine management have found that when it comes to hiring decisions for jobs like data-entry or call-center work, the bots do as well as their human counterparts in a paper sift of resumes.

Last year, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that selecting from 300,000 candidates across 15 companies, an algorithm made choices about resumes that proved to be as good as the choices of human HR managers over time.

Maverick hires – gut instinct decisions about candidates with hidden potential – by human recruiters didn’t fare any better or worse in the workplace than the algorithm’s preferred candidates.

Why does it matter?

Well, it’s true that talent you employ is your greatest asset.

But your staff is also a point of vulnerability for your business.

Fifty-five percent of security breaches start inside an organization: either by accident or maliciously. You can read more about the facts and figures of data loss in our at-a-glance infographic.

But that’s an employee being suckered by a phishing scam and opening the door to the confidential data on your network.

Maybe they’ve left a company laptop, external memory stick, or smartphone behind in a bar, restaurant or gym locker room. Maybe they decide to try to help themselves to customer records, or your latest product designs, or business plans to start up their own company or start working for a competitor.

A human manager can only deal with what they can see.

And 49% of businesses that have suffered confidential data loss say it took them months to find out.

That’s months of potential business disruption and months of potential reputational damage. And it’s a sign that careless or malicious behaviour by employees was hidden in plain sight.

But there’s technology available now – including the auditing and monitoring tools baked-in to Safetica’s solution – that look for activity patterns that hint at trouble ahead.

It can monitor and restrict unauthorized use of confidential files; it looks for patterns of digital behavior that suggest human managers have cause for concern.

And if human managers don’t want to look over their employees’ shoulders all the time, machines don’t blink or have an off-day.

So, let’s agree that the human manager isn’t going to be out of a job any time soon.

But every manager will benefit from the help of smart technology in their workplace.

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