Days after mass layoffs trimmed 12,000 jobs at Google, hundreds of former employees flocked to an online chatroom to commiserate about the seemingly erratic way they had suddenly been made redundant.
They swapped theories on how management had decided who got cut. Could a “mindless algorithm carefully designed not to violate any laws” have chosen who got the ax, one person wondered in a Discord post The Washington Post could not independently verify.
Google says there was “no algorithm involved” in their job cut decisions. But former employees are not wrong to wonder, as a fleet of artificial intelligence tools become ingrained in office life. Human resources managers use machine learning software to analyze millions of employment related data points, churning out recommendations of who to interview, hire, promote or help retain.
But as Silicon Valley’s fortunes turn, that software is likely dealing with a more daunting task: helping decide who gets cut, according to human resources analysts and workforce experts.
A January survey of 300 human resources leaders at U.S. companies revealed that 98 percent of them say software and algorithms will help them make layoff decisions this year. And as companies lay off large swaths of people — with cuts creeping into the five digits — it’s hard for humans to execute alone.