Technology has helped make our lives easier, especially in the workplace. Computers have become a staple in offices in Missouri and pretty much everywhere else across the world. Computers have the ability to analyze data in a matter of seconds when it once took a human being with their own opinions and beliefs several hours or even days to complete a similar task.

Although the computer has no preconceived notions or discriminatory beliefs, a recent research study shows that using them to sort through job applications could actually violate the protections laid out in the Fair Labor Standards Act. In fact, the study shows that some of these programs inadvertently discriminate against racial minorities and older workers.

The computer software programs that were called into question as a part of the study use personality test algorithms to determine applicants that would be a good fit. These personality tests use statement questions that applicants answer yes or no to such as “I ask more questions than most people do” or “People tend to trust what I say.” These questions are then analyzed to determine whether a person has leadership qualities, is creative or any other trait.

The problem, the research says is that some companies completely replace human screening with computer software that uses broad algorithms that group individuals together based on how they respond and not on a case-by-case basis. Around the world, the sales on this type of talent-management software rose to approximately $3.8 billion by the end of 2011. That was a 15 percent increase from the year before.

The software gained popularity after other studies were done that showed that employees with certain personality traits were much more likely to remain in certain jobs. Let’s face it; with the amount of training that some jobs require, employee turnover can cost employers a lot of money. However, researchers warn that using the personality testing could and in some instances has led to discrimination.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Meet the New Boss: Big Data,” Joseph Walker, Sept. 20, 2012

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