“One absolutely cannot tell, by watching, the difference between a .300 hitter and a .275 hitter. The difference is one hit every two weeks.”
In the book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” author Michael Lewis writes how the 2002 Oakland Athletics used data, rather than traditional baseball scouting tactics (such as judging the fluidity of a player’s swing, his outward confidence, or physical build) to assemble a playoff-worthy team. Working with a significantly lower budget than other Major League teams, the A’s pioneered the use of sabermetrics, or empirical analysis of baseball statistics, to supplement subjective judgments.
Lewis writes, “What begins as a failure of the imagination ends as a market inefficiency: when you rule out an entire class of people from doing a job simply by their appearance, you are less likely to find the best person for the job.”
So how do companies and organizations incorporate analytics, like the Athletics did, in workforce development? Combing through a competitive talent market, a hiring manager can examine data sets for predictors of a candidate’s success. Once her team is assembled, the manager can then assess employee surveys, compensation data, and other metrics unique to the company to develop and integrate members of the team more effectively. Data can also help managers quickly determine who the best current employee would be for a promotion or to take the lead on a new project. Google’s “People Analytics” team uses a formulaic approach, rather than lengthy discussions on “emotions, instincts and anecdotes,” to make those types of decisions.
In a 2013 study, the American Management Association found organizations that master data analytics regarding human capital will find future success, surpassing those who fail to employ similar tactics. That is not to say subjective impression and judgment should be taken out of the equation. The human element simply cannot be removed. Even Google, led by engineers and computer scientists, abandons its algorithms for making final decisions.
Institutions are built on personality, ambitions, and cohesion. A manager in any field must build his or her team with those goals in mind. While the Oakland Athletics significantly outperformed expectations, they did not win the World Series. Perhaps they lacked that extra, undefined ingredient that can propel a group of people—a team—to the top.