The HR future is now

Connectivity and cognitive technology have revolutionised work across functions and work places, resulting in what is now described as the ‘augmented work force.'

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MFR Graphics

There is an amalgamation between digital technology and humans, with a keen focus on optimising the augmented and automated work force.

One of the biggest technological breakthroughs impacting the way businesses function is Artificial Intelligence (AI); a field of computer science that aims to solve cognitive problems through mimicking human intelligence. In other words, AI enables machines to think like humans and perform tasks such as learning, problem-solving and reasoning.

Artificial Intelligence and Human Resources

Many of the traditionally manual Human Resource (HR) related tasks such as salary calculations, tabulating leave balances, and other administrative tasks are already computerised. Taking the next logical step forward, the field of HR, and its multitude of functions, has already begun to experience the influence of AI. The value gained through the optimisation of such processes through technology lies in the scope to make real-time, and informed, decisions. This results in HR being more automated, augmented and efficient, while in turn enhancing employee experience. 

Currently there are a number of HR functions seeing such revolutions. 

1. Talent Acquisition

This is about the use of algorithms in hiring decisions by scanning, evaluating and eliminating applications. AI can be designed to ensure that the person-to-organisation and person-to-job fit is achieved through unbiased screening, saving time via automation of administrative processes and by enhancing the candidate experience simultaneously. This enables humans to run more rigorous, focused testing to ensure the right person is ultimately hired. 

In 2018, DBS Bank (Singapore) introduced JIM (Jobs Intelligence Maestro), an AI powered recruitment bot to conduct candidate screening for applicants to the role of wealth planning managers. Through JIM, DBS was able to shorten the screening time from 32 minutes per candidate to eight, and were able to respond to 96% of all candidate queries through JIM. 

2. Learning and Development

COVID-19 has accentuated the significance of learning remotely. While Learning Management Systems (LMS) are currently in use, AI embedded LMS are equipped with more capability. Such systems have the ability to create personalised learning tracks for employees based on their specific knowledge/skill gaps and also on their existing roles. They also enable better progress tracking and provide real time feedback to employees. Some of these LMS are also supplemented with chat bots, enabling question and answer feedback all day, every day, by providing real time automated assistance for employees using the system. Additionally, similar to how Netflix uses algorithms to suggest content, the algorithms used in LMS can do the same for learners through its eLearning analytics. 

3. Data Driven Decision Making

Big data and AI have a synergistic relationship. Data is the fuel that powers AI. Through the use of big data, AI systems ultimately produce numerous data for its uses. Fundamentally, the more data that is mined, the more information is available to drive action and decision making.There are two primary types of data that are generated; systems of record — data about employees, and employee-generated data — data collected from direct employee feedback. These data sets can be used to make more informed data-driven HR decisions, enabling agility rather than just relying on experience, or a hunch on the part of the decision maker. 

4. Employee Engagement

Engagement is connected with numerous HR metrics; such as retention, motivation, happiness, productivity, and, among others, loyalty. There is no denying the importance of creating and sustaining an engaged team. One way to achieve this is through AI powered automated virtual assistants. This helps with clearing up employee questions, such as bonus eligibility, or request for information, such as leave balances, in real time. Imagine not having to walk yourself to HR or wait for a call back from HR professionals

AI can also capture the pulse of employees via sentiment analysis through engagement or climate surveys. AI can provide insights into the general mood of employees, satisfaction levels, and relationships with teams and managers. These systems even have the ability to analyse the emojis employees use in conversations to derive data. Therefore, HR has an abundance of information, enabling a proactive approach to addressing problems while at the same time strategising on what is working.  

5. Talent Management

The goal of talent management is to retain high performing employees, while developing their skills and continuously motivating employees to remain within the organisation. AI in this field can include algorithms to help predict the likelihood of an employee leaving, by evaluating employee data that includes pay and reward, tenure, and performance scores, while measuring these against overall attrition levels. This allows HR to recognise potential problems, and implement corrective measures prior to the problems snowballing.   

In 2020, North Eastern University reported that there are now AI powered systems that can evaluate key indicators of employee success in order to identify those that should be promoted, thus driving internal mobility. This reduces bias in promotions, and ensures equal opportunity for assessment is given to all employees in regular intervals.

AI and HR: What to expect

Technology is inhuman; thus, when it comes to the human element of HR, the premise is that no matter how intelligent a technology is, it cannot come close to the artistry that helps HR practitioners perform the “human” aspect of their profession. Therefore a future where robots, and other automations, fully take over the function of HR seems unlikely. However change, in the way the field operates and evolves through the augmentation, will remain continuous.

The demand for unique human skills will continue to grow. The Future of Jobs report, from the World Economic Forum in January of 2020, projects that 75 million current jobs will be displaced as AI takes over more routine aspects of work — however, 133 million new jobs will be created. Skills such as emotional intelligence, technical intelligence, technology design, and programming will be important.

In 2020, a Harvard Business Review study on HR in the future predicted unique roles being created to cater to future demands, with a holistic focus on employee wellbeing, and the creation of roles such as Director of Wellbeing and Work-from-Home Facilitators.

The future is indeed today with AI in HR here to stay. AI is freeing up HR from dull, repetitive processes while enabling them to concentrate on being employee champions, driving engagement and bringing in data-driven solutions. As MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, “Over the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t."

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