According to HRD's annual research, CEOs across the Asia-Pacific are empowering their HR teams with increasing budgets to purchase HR tech platforms and systems. 74% of HR professionals surveyed said they were planning to increase their spend on HR tech over the next 12 months. With more virtual working arrangements and tech savvy employees than ever before, HR departments are working to keep up with the pace of change, looking to tools like technology to help manage that change. However, HR technology can bring with it a set of issues that HR professionals are (and will continue to) grapple with, including AI, machine learning, implementation and how to manage future workforces. This HR Blog will examine the HR tech issues you need to consider in your business and how to mitigate them going forward.
Artificial Intelligence, Chat Bots and Machine Learning in HR
There has been a significant uptake of AI and machine learning in the HR space, but the context within which it is being applied is still quite narrow (in the big scheme of things). Companies already taking advantage of AI in HR see gains in recruitment and selection efficiency, better (unbiased) decision making and improved employee experience. That brings with it a range of questions about the potential issues do AI, chat bots and machine learning bring to the workplace if adoption is implemented without ensuring that employees and the business have the capacity to adapt.
Over on the My HR Future blog, they illustrate the need to distinguish between the different levels of artificial intelligence, outlining 3 subdivisions:
- Artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) – ANI is, for example, on par with an infant.
- Artificial general intelligence (AGI), an advanced level - it covers more than one field like power of reasoning, problem solving and abstract thinking, which is mostly on par with adults.
- Artificial super intelligence (ASI), the final stage of the intelligence explosion, in which AI surpasses human intelligence across all fields.
They clarify that we have not yet reached the last stag, meaning that cognitive self-learning is therefore not relevant (at this stage), certainly not for HR divisions. However, the other two levels are already being applied in HR in the workplace. Let's take a look at how those applications are currently being deployed.
Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI): “Learning machines” on the first stage of artificial intelligence are able to make decisions by tapping into large amounts of data and statistically validated algorithms. Classic examples are chatbots such as Siri, Alexa or Cortana – all so-called “personal assistants”. They can identify patterns in voice commands and respond to them according to predefined algorithms. In HR these types of assistants are employed when the initial contact with applicants is being made – often when it comes to answering standard questions about an advertised position. As chatbots they can support an ongoing interaction between recruiter and applicant during the recruiting process, in this case they quite simply increase the recruiters accessibility or the applicant.
There is also a second field of ANI application - "Natural Language Processing“ (NLP). This type of technology supports the scanning of letters of application to characterise the applicant's range and uses 'vocabulary' and 'wording' in general to assess the suitability of a candidate. NLP can also assist in writing job advertisements, by using a language which is exactly targeted towards the preferred group of applicants. In this context, the applicant typically benefits by being able to interact faster and more easily with the company on a 24/7 basis. For the HR person, this use of AI means an efficiency gain.
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): On this second level of artificial intelligence, networked machines can develop new models and algorithms on an ad hoc basis. In HR this technology can improve the preselection of applicants. With this second stage of artificial intelligence, it is possible to tackle an imminent and important problem in employee selection: unconscious prejudices. The world is full of biases, and these prejudices impact employee selection. As a rule, people prefer 'themselves and their peers' to people who are socialised differently. Personal experience with certain behaviours of others also determines a person's judgement of others. All these subconscious prejudices can impair a good selection decision. Built well, AI doesn't know these prejudices – which might actually having exciting consequences.
What needs to be considered when introducing AI in an HR department?
- Any use of technology – including AI – should primarily aim to improve the candidate’s experience. Too many good applicants are lost during the recruiting process. Any HR department should first identify all contact points ('touchpoints') in the applicant-company-relationship, then identify the most important ones and then do everything to optimise the contact point experience.
- Critical points of contact that often stand for a poor candidate experience are: A tedious online application process, difficult availability, uninformed or unreliable recruiters and uninspiring candidate aptitude tests. If these contact points are identified and improved by employing successful creative methods such as Design Thinking, truly interesting fields for artificial intelligence often emerge – with the clear aim to improve the candidate’s experience.
Over on HR Technology News, they're talking about the impact that AI and machine learning will have on creating 'Super Jobs'. According to David Brown, lead partner for Deloitte Human Capital, jobs of the future will focus less on routine, thanks to the advent of machines that will handle repetitive tasks.
“This will create new roles that we call ‘super jobs’: jobs that combine parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles that leverage the significant productivity and efficiency gains that can arise when people work with technology,” according to Brown. He believes that super jobs will require problem-solving, communication, interpretation, and design skills. These roles rely on skill sets across multiple business domains and open up “opportunities for mobility, advancement and the rapid adoption of new skills desperately needed today.”
Using HR Technology for Real- Time Feedback, Performance Management and Continuous Learning
Deloitte has found that organisations with a clearly articulated mission, vision, and values have 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of retention. This is where real-time feedback, continuous learning and a performance management process that meets the needs and culture of your business can make a big difference.
Real-Time Feedback: In today's workplace, real-time feedback and performance management are no longer a one-way street. Giving employees the ability to provide bottom-up feedback and opportunities to initiate conversations or check-in with line managers will ensure the better likelihood of success. it’s also important to provide tools in your company to enable you to obtain regular, unbiased, and anonymous feedback about all employees. People always want to talk about what’s working and what’s not in their company. An annual employee survey is far too slow and limiting. Today, pulse survey tools, sentiment monitoring tools, and employee sensing tools give employees a variety of ways to express their feelings and provide direct feedback to managers and peers. Deloitte says you should consider implementing these types of tools as the anonymous 'heartbeat monitors' of your business.
Performance Management: When deciding what type of performance management and feedback solution to use in your business, consider these factors:
- PMS (Performance Management Solution) customisation: Every organisation has different needs, so make sure you choose a performance management system that is flexible, easy-to-use and customisable. The next step is integrating real-time feedback into employees’ workflows and everyday activities to ensure participation. Add-on options like goal management, peer-to-peer feedback and employee polls can prove to be powerful tools for motivation and engagement.
- Driving adoption: Once you’ve decided on the right set of customisations, you’ll need to turn your attention on driving adoption across the business. In order for your PM and real-time feedback initiatives to be a success, it’s crucial that leadership gets behind it. Clearly articulating how employees can provide feedback will help reinforce the value proposition of the processes that you introduce.
- Empowering employees: Historically, a key factor behind the failure of review processes was the lack of clarity on how individual employee goals linked to the overall business objectives. If employees aren’t sure of how their work contributes to the business performance, how do they know if they’re performing? This is where HR, line managers, and company leadership needs to step in – adopt a policy of transparency and communicate what you do and how that aligns to broader business goals.
Continuous Learning: When preparing employees for continuous learning, employers can ask them to assess their skills and offer feedback what what their needs are. Self-assessments are a vital part in creating a culture of learning, as they help employees see where they are in their skill development and motivates them to develop their skills. Once your people are conscious of where the gaps are, the following frameworks can help deliver learning that will help to fill those gaps:
- Social networks: Continuous learning requires that information is available almost everywhere and that employees can share knowledge and discuss what they are learning. This constant connection is maintained when companies have working social networks.
- Learning analytics: While it is useful to have employees assess themselves, it is also important to have a system of learning analytics in place. Tracking progress is an important step in helping employees and employers see what their strengths and weaknesses are.
- Cohesive structures: As part of creating a continuous learning culture companies need to assess the barriers and inefficiencies in their current learning system. It is important that when a new technology is adapted all the pieces are in place to make it as successful as possible.
- Blended learning: When planning the creation of a continuous learning system in order to increases the chances of success companies can blend technology with in-person learning. This in-person learning, in the form of advisors, coaches, or mentors, can help support the learning done with technology.
Don't forget to reward use in order to encourage uptake of new technologies in learning. HR and the wider business can offer incentives to employees who use the new systems. When companies are aware of how to create a continuous learning environment with technology in mind, they can then start to explore technologies and the trends in learning and development, meaning organisations now have many choices in technologies when creating a culture of continuous learning. HR professionals and the leadership team need to learn about all the various ways continuous learning tools can be used, and what the needs and skills gaps of their employees are. When you research, plan, and choose the right kind of technology, continuous learning becomes an important part of the culture of your organisation, leading to more engaged and higher performing employees.
Overcoming the Challenges of HR Technology Implementation
The implementation process is often the point when HR professionals come unstuck. To get implementation right, it is critical that your business approaches the entire process with a willingness to work methodically from beginning to end, putting in place a detailed plan that your team then executes with diligence and a high attention to detail. If you want to avoid the pitfalls that many businesses experience during the implementation process ResearchGate offers a great report that clearly articulates the barriers to the implementation of HR systems. Despite the benefits of HR software available to business, ResearchGate's report concludes that many organisations are not in the position to enjoy the full benefits of the systems they choose to implement. They identify four common barriers and challenges to effective execution of HR software:
- Management’s reluctance.
- Privacy issues for employees.
- Internal resistance to implementing HR software.
- The conversion cost (from traditional approach to HR).
If your organisation can get the support from leadership and the organisation as a whole to go through the process of selection, implementation and roll-out, then there are numerous factors (which we've covered in detail on a previous HR blog) that your business needs to consider as part of the process.
- Employee and Manager Training: The value of training employees and managers to use a new system should not be underestimated. Even the most intuitive systems can seem imposing when employees and managers are unfamiliar with the appearance and functions of the system. Employees and managers should be involved in the implementation and adaptation of the system as much as possible and a fair amount of time should be set aside for employees and managers to learn to use the new system.
- Employee Change Management: Managing change is different from training, but can be addressed during system training meetings. Additional support should also be available after training to help employees adapt to using the new system on a daily basis. Managers should clearly express how and when employees can reach out to discuss issues with the new changes, (via email or specific office hours). As part of change management, employers should be prepared to discuss:
- Why the change (new system) is needed.
- What changes there will actually be.
- What effect the change will have on individuals.
- What steps must be taken to successfully transition.
- Configuring HRIS for Optimal Function: HR systems often have so many possible features available to use that companies become overwhelmed and stick to the basics. This may be helpful for getting used to the system at first, but will not help you maximise the ROI for your business. After the initial stages of implementation, it may be helpful to bring in an expert to configure the system to send alerts and automatically print reports that can help with labour management, compliance, recruitment and staffing, and productivity.
- Assessing Quality and Accuracy of Information: Information is only accurate and valuable when the right formulas are used to derive the information and the right constraints and cross-references are used to analyse the data. For companies that have never used HR software, it can be difficult to determine how to assess accuracy and quality of information. Analysts or vendor representatives may be invaluable for overcoming this challenge.
- Complying with Legal Requirements: Even small organisations may have dozens of federal, state, and local regulations to adhere to. Failing to understand the legal requirements for the data, process, and structure can cause companies to incur penalties and make them susceptible to audits. HR software vendors may be able to help companies understand what reports and information will be required to show compliance with regulations.
- Ensuring Data Security: With SaaS and cloud-based HR software becoming ever more ubiquitous, companies must make sure that data is secure right from the start. To assess the security of a new system, companies should ask vendors about the security of data in transit and data at rest and understand what data security management systems are in place. Just as importantly, companies should take precautions to ensure password management and to make sure that only parties with clearance can access certain sensitive information.
Emerging HR Technologies That Will Run Future Workforces
PWC's report about the forces shaping the workforce of 2030 makes it abundantly clear that it is important to have a clear view of what the future (driven by the trends and our own actions) will look like. The report asks the reader to consider:
- What role will we play?
- What actions should we take?
- What should we tell our children and grandchildren, colleagues, neighbours and friends about the future of work?
PWC believes that individuals need to take personal responsibility about preparing for the future of work (and life) by accepting the nature of current and future change and doing the work necessary to adapt. They recommend the following:
- Pay attention and understand the bigger picture transformations.
- Understand how technology is developing and what it and the other mega-trends could mean for the world of work – and you specifically.
- Expect the unexpected and work to understand how different the world (and work) could look in the future and plan for multiple scenarios and outcomes.
- Plan for an automated world and find the gaps where human workers are still needed. Whether this is working to develop technology, alongside it – or in narrow, very specialist or very human types of employment – look for the places automation simply can’t compete in yet.
- Get your skills in order and cultivate the skills needed for the future. Human skills like creativity, leadership and empathy will be in demand. Identify the skills you need and start to concentrate on how to build them – and how to use them alongside technology.
- Take adaptive action to survive, because despite the fact that the human race is infinitely adaptable, it is also risk averse. Work out what holds you back – whether structural and financial (loans, mortgages, responsibilities) or emotional. Work out what matters to you and your family and plan for change.
- Jump on a passing ship and recognise that there is no one future-proof career, only better options for you. Determine how to chart your course to get to the ‘next better thing’.
In the context of how HR technology will be used to run the workplace of the future, AI and machine learning speeds up transaction processing, reduces information errors, and improves the tracking. It also further enables the control of human resource actions, improves service delivery, accelerates HR decision, increases company competitiveness, shifts HR focus from administrative to strategic HRM, and reengineer the entire HR functions of companies. What it can't do at this point, is tackle the very human interpersonal issues that require problem-solving, communication, interpretation, and design skills. These roles rely on skill sets across multiple business domains.
When you're ready to turn your thoughts and planning towards designing your future workplace, here's where to start:
- Build a future-looking understanding of how humans and machines might collaborate to deliver your corporate purpose.
- Clarify your values and behaviours that underpin your policies, processes, decision-making and priorities.
- Identify and engage with internal and external stakeholders to manage their expectations and co-create the future of work.
- Create an open and transparent narrative on how you are influencing, planning and delivering on the future of work– for your organisation, society and individuals.
If you would like to discover more about how to mitigate risk and set yourself up for a successful HR software implementation if you're ready to go down that path, we've prepared a free White Paper that you can access via the button below.
Image Credit: CognitionX