Google’s autocomplete feature is the closest thing we have to a mind-reading machine. The search engine is so widely used, and so good at collecting data about what we look up on the web, that it can tell us what people think about nearly anything.
Like, for example, HR.
I discovered this one day while doing a search and losing my train of thought (alas, this happens often). My fingers poised above the keyboard after typing “How HR should …”, Google helpfully offered options to complete the phrase:
- handle complaints
- handle a bad supervisor
- do an employee HIPAA audit
- handle the death of an employee
- address flatulence
- prepare for a merger
- handle workplace bullies
That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? From bureaucratic issues to personal hygiene, now we have an idea what workers really want to know about HR.
Try it. Your mileage may vary — and I’ve discovered that results also change with time. Regardless, they offer fascinating insight into what the world at large wonders about HR. Surely many of the searches that went into these results were performed by human resource professionals, of course, but I’m betting most were not.
Likewise, Google and other web tools can give us a sense how well important industry trends are catching on. For example, though “chief human resource officer” is the industry-favored term for the top person in HR, the title still seems to lag the old-fashioned “personnel director” in much of the English-speaking world.
We find evidence for this in two places. One is Google Trends, a tool the search-engine provides for tracking search terms over time and geography. This search, for example, shows that “personnel director” and “human resource director” have lost steam over the last dozen years. But they are still favored over the newer term by a big margin. Ditto for “chief people officer.”
A second piece of evidence is the employment-ad aggregator Indeed, which offers analytics about job listings. This search also indicates that the older terms for top HR officers remain the most popular.
This kind of evidence is useful for anyone in the business world who hopes to shift public perceptions about a company, an industry or a profession. The Internet tells us what people are really thinking.Tweet This!