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HR by Numbers

Can computers calculate the potential value of an employee? Our article about using analytics to evaluate people ("How Much Is That Worker Worth?" Cover, Mar. 23 & 30) provoked howls from most readers. Some cautioned against trusting machines; others railed against the humans using them: "Let's apply this technique to HR and see if anyone in that department is worth keeping," suggested one commenter. --Stephen Baker

Using numbers in HR isn't new, but pretending a mathematical formula can do it accurately and well is selling snake oil.

Screen name: Rob T

There was a time when most people would have been horrified by such concepts. It makes one wonder exactly who or what is in control of us all.

Screen name: Trevor Bacon

So the worker is poured into a mathematical model that is much like the mathematical tools used for assessing investment risks in collateralized debt obligations. Because that worked out so well for the finance industry, right?

Another great HR harassment tool based on nebulous principles.

Screen name: Dave

As long as it's only "a" tool, and not "the" tool, it's O.K. While I agree that treating people as just another number may not necessarily capture all the variables, having another tool such as this may not necessarily be a bad thing.

After all, if you are an under-recognized but overworked employee, this thingamajig may capture that!

Screen name: Mukund

Oh the irony! The HR department in a company is a solution that doesn't work for a problem that doesn't exist. If ever there was low-hanging fruit for cost-cutting, the American HR department is it.

Screen name: logic

The Lingering Sting of an Inhumane Layoff

Regarding "Layoffs: HR's Moment of Truth" (The WelchWay, Mar. 23 & 30): At my first full-time job, one morning I was met at my cubicle by my manager, who asked me to accompany her to her boss' office. I wasn't even allowed to put down my briefcase.

After finding out that I was being let go, I was handed a packet of paperwork, told to report to HR the following morning to sign papers, and asked to leave immediately. The next morning, HR reps asked the group of us not to contact our former coworkers so we wouldn't "depress" them. One person only figured out he was being laid off when his security badge failed to open a door. Though we were later given placement help, I have never forgotten (or totally forgiven) the inhumane way we were treated.

Katie Petito


Don't Forget Sam Walton

Reading "Game-Changing Management Ideas" (Cover Package, Mar. 23 & 30), I was shocked that your list of historical "big ideas" failed to include Mr. Sam Walton, the new-game creator of Wal-Mart (WMT). Mr. Sam took a small storefront in Bentonville, Ark., to world business leadership.

In fulfilling his mission--the best price for the customer--he used numerous innovations: in customer service, supply chain management, and [treating] suppliers as partners.

George Graen


Put American Engineers to Work First

As an engineer with a graduate degree, I take exception to "America's Immigrant Brain Drain" (Outside Shot, Mar. 16).

The spirit of entrepreneurship existed in Silicon Valley well before the influx of H-1B immigrants. It's insulting to hear the author repeat the claim that there aren't enough qualified engineering and science grads in the U.S., while many of my colleagues find themselves out of work.

If companies truly believe this, they should lobby Congress to use some of the stimulus money to help graduates of American universities pursue advanced science degrees.

Dominick Vo


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