Jacob here. In 2011, Hewlett-Packard tested its people-analytics chops by developing a model to predict employee turnover. According to computer scientist Eric Siegel’s book Predictive Analytics: The Power To Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie Or Die, the model allowed HP to assign every individual employee at its company a “flight risk” score that represented the probability that that employee would leave the organization.

Companies can use a variety of methods to predict employee turnover. HP, for example, used two years of employee-level data on things like salaries, raises, job ratings, and job rotations, according to Siegel’s Predictive Analytics. Other organizations may use data from employee-engagement surveys for workers who have stayed and left. Both of these approaches rely on collecting and combining data on individual employees.

This type of analysis is “pretty easy to do,” says Michael Lieberman, a statistician and the founder of statistical consulting and market research firm Multivariate Solutions. And with a tight labor market, it can be tempting for companies to develop this type of model, predicting which individual employees are at risk of leaving. The question is whether the benefits outweigh the privacy and ethical concerns, which could ultimately harm your organization.

“The scientist in me is like, ‘That's so cool. How useful is that clarity?’” says Dr. Kenneth Matos, director of people science at employee-feedback platform Culture Amp. “The ethicist in me is like, ‘Wow, there's so much opportunity for that to be abused.’”

We often write about different tools that can make life easier for HR professionals. Today, we’re focusing on one that seems to do just that, but comes with hidden pitfalls. Here are some of the drawbacks of using predictive analytics to forecast turnover at the individual level:

Already a member? Sign in.

Make today’s workplace challenge tomorrow’s strategic advantage

Charter memberships deliver the research, education, events, and expert advisory that people leaders and teams need to transform themselves and their organizations.


The best way for anyone to keep up with what's new and next in the changing workplace.

Charter Pro

Actionable insights, benchmarks and best practices designed to be used in the flow of work, plus unlimited access to Charter events for managers, rising decision makers, or your whole people team.

Charter Pro CxO
Custom pricing

Join our community of groundbreaking CHROs and get unlimited, expert 1:1 advisory, plus custom research to help you navigate your thorniest challenges.

Trusted by change-ready and innovative companies


Charter Charter Pro Charter Pro CxO
News and Insights

Cutting-edge analysis of the latest workplace trends

Tools, templates, and benchmarks
Delivered twice-weekly in essential email briefings and written by journalists and researchers dedicated to the future of work
Original research insights and how to use them

Regular installments on AI, flexible work, and inclusion

Live events and on-demand workshops

Meet and learn directly from global experts building the future of work

AI-powered assistant

On-demand analysis, answers, and action plans to save you time and make you smarter

Coaching and advisory

Unlimited on-demand expertise – for a fraction of the cost of analysts and consultants

Custom team briefings

Host live research briefings for your whole people team on topics you care about most