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Google testing HR algorithm

Retaining key employees is essential to Google's hopes of staying on top of the tech world, and it's going to use its math chops to reach out to those who are wavering before it's too late.

Google wants to make sure more key employees stick around at its Mountain View, Calif., campus.
Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Google thinks it will be able to tell which of its employees are going to quit, maybe even before they know.

The company revealed Tuesday that it is using its fabled data-collection and analysis powers for more than just search results. The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has developed an algorithm for assessing the number of employees likely to turn their back on the free lunches and multicolored walls of Google's Mountain View, Calif., campus in hopes of convincing the best of those folks to stay.

A few years ago, Silicon Valley workers were flocking to Google, and the company was hiring like mad. The world has changed, however, and Google is no longer automatically seen as the best place for a budding young coder or entrepreneur to hone their talents--especially as the stock price has declined since its late 2007 heights.

As a result, Google has seen recent defections to companies du jour such as Twitter and Facebook, and is determined to retain its best people, according to a company representative quoted by the Journal. The algorithm is still in testing (insert joke about Google's beta culture here), but the idea seems to be to identify disengaged employees before they lose interest in staying with Google.

It's almost like a kinder, gentler version of the "forced ranking" Six Sigma program that encouraged companies to regularly fire the bottom 10 percent of their employees to get rid of the malcontents. Google's not going down that road, but nor is it shy about using quantitative analysis to categorize its workforce.