Machine Learning: Your Best Tool

3 Minutes Read

When I look ahead to the coming year, I make a long list of the things I can’t know.  What’s the weather going to be like? What’s going to happen on my favorite Netflix shows?  Who is going to win the Super Bowl and many more? 

Still there are some things I can tell you that there are some things we will see emerge in the coming year. One ongoing trend we will see in the coming year is the continued growth and importance of machine learning.  This is one topic that we should be paying close attention to in 2021. 

The idea of machine learning went on the backburner the past year for obvious reasons but it was never far from mind.  When I am talking to human resources leaders looking ahead the conversation very quickly turns to machine learning.  Its potential, its role as a necessity, are very much front of mind.  

So let’s take a moment to look at what to expect from machine learning during the coming year.  We need to expect it will most likely: 

  • Identify trends allowing one to anticipate change
  • Continue to help managers identify and communicate with their teams
  • Make the employee experience authentic

Let’s look at this in more detail:

Identify trends allowing one to anticipate change-OK let’s acknowledge the 800 lb gorilla in the room.  Nothing during the last 12 months was possible to identify or anticipate.  But now we move forward and machine learning is the way that will help you identify those changes coming down the line. 

One thing I hear constantly when I am speaking with HR executives is that jobs are starting to pick up and so are employee departures. No matter what you do there will be a certain amount of job attrition as people leave what may be a bad memory for a new opportunity.  That’s life. Still, it’s not a lost cause. 

If you have a machine based analysis tool in place, such as KangoGfit’s, you can see who is not engaging the employees best prior their leaving the organization.  The high costs of replacing an employee (lost productivity, replacement costs etc.) still remain so you need to know who is leaving and from where.  Machine learning will send up that flag that employees from department X are not just leaving but they are leaving at a rate much higher than the rest of the organization.  Conversely, it will clarify who is retaining employees and why. 

This allows the appropriate, user defined, steps to be taken to prevent damage before it even happens.  Best of all this is one of a multitude of ways machine learning can be customized for you. 

Continue to help managers identify and communicate with their teams- I have been told by some managers that the employee engagement process froze up last spring.  No one knew what to do so they did nothing, which was a result of not knowing what to do.  As a result a terrible situation was made much worse and many employees froze up from a lack of clear direction. 


But this situation is proving to be an industry wide lesson learned from the events of last spring.  We learned more than ever executives need to communicate and engage with their employees. But having some random celebration is not enough.  Managers need to be helped and guided towards communicating with a one-on-one style that lets employees feel validated and recognized. 


Now is the time to build a machine learning system that takes the data we’ve been compiling for years, with a subset of the data from 2020 and build that communication system that will build models for various scenarios and, by that, help the organization build better models for employee engagement. 


Make employee engagement authentic-This is probably the central theme of the KangoGift philosophy.  Don’t sound like you’re reading from a prompter, engage your employees directly so they feel they are making real contributions,  Machine learning can help you do this, but it can not do it for you.  


Machine learning is the tool that highlights the trends but what management must do is to find why what is happening is happening.  If the accounts payable department seems, by all measures, to be well engaged then find out why.  That is the human aspect that you’re always going to need to use. You will need to learn what the winning factor is and apply it to the remainder of the organization


What machine learning will make you more effective by recognizing a trend you may not like to see.  You’re then able to engage and find that manager A is not recognizing the small things like manager B  You can then address the problem by engaging with the team.  Now you know that there is a problem and you can address it in that authentic fashion that machine learning has identified for you.

Let me clarify a problem that I hear sometimes when meeting with HR executives for KangoGift.  They sometimes seemed confused as to what the role is regarding machine learning.  I wonder if they think that machine learning will see the problem and order a team lunch for Friday.  That’s not how it works.  Machine learning alerts you that you have a problem, before it happens, but any solution to that problem has to come from the humans in the room. 

So what are the takeaways?

  • Machine learning is a tool to help you engage with employees more effectively. Use it as such. 
  • Machine learning is the tool that will help your executives/managers become better at what they do and more effectively engage with your employees
  • Machine learning can make your engagement more authentic by identifying what your employees are most receptive to and allowing you to do so

We’re starting this new year with a huge task ahead of us.  We need to engage employees more than we ever have and better than we ever had.  Machine learning is a great tool for employee engagement.  Learn from it but don’t expect it to do all the work. 

Todd Horton