How much is the Employee Experience Affected through HR Technologies

Bala V Sathyanarayanan, EVP, Xerox | Monday, 30 October 2017, 07:09 IST

What if there was no more Siri? No Alexa? No Google Home/assistant? Most of us cannot comprehend life without any of these yet they didn’t exist 10 years ago. The rapid and ubiquitous global adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) has made our times exciting and significantly improved our lives in many ways!

The work environment has also not escaped the far reaching implication of fast changing technology. The HR function for instance- a function that was traditionally seen as a back office support provider - has jumped on the AI bandwagon and is playing a key role in transforming the way work gets done. Chat Bots, Artificial Assistants, Big Data are some of the trends changing how HR accomplishes it tasks and goals.

Let’s look at a real life situation. Megha is a recent Engineering graduate from SVCE, a premier institute. In her 3rd year, Megha visits a multinational energy firm’s career website in search of an internship that will solidify the skills she has learnt so far at school. On the website, she fills out her profile and uploads her resume. The next day, Megha receives an email from the firm informing her of two internships that fit her profile. Megha gets on the website, reads the job descriptions and decides to apply to the one that offers her an opportunity to work with the materials engineering team.

What Megha doesn’t know is that the job descriptions she just read were drafted with the help of an application that can be used to identify language and words that might turn off good candidates. The real time updates and communication unique to her profile were also possible and faster thanks to another application.

If you visit one of the more popular financial services companies’ careers website to apply for a job, an application will immediately invite you to take a short test/survey to identify what department you would be better suited in. This application saves not only the time of the candidate but the time the recruiter would have used in screening. Many global companies are using HireVue, a video intelligence solution which records and analyzes interviews, noting things such as facial expressions and word choice to determine a candidate’s eligibility.

You will agree with me that from candidate screening to onboarding processes to training and development, the Human Resources department is looking very different these days and it is mostly thanks to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

But let’s go back to where we left off with Megha. During the internship, the firm recognizes her talent and decides to make her a full time offer upon graduation. On Day 1 as a full time employee, this time with a different department, Megha walks in and is welcomed and led straight to her cubicle by a colleague. At her cubicle, she switches on her issued laptop and is immediately greeted by the hologram of her manager who is based in Sweden. They spend over an hour or so going over the onboarding process, her role, responsibilities and expectation for the first 30/60/90 days. It is almost as if her manager is right there in the room.

While Megha is a fictitious character, the technologies and the enablement in the above scenario is real. AI, ML and other virtual assistants are changing the way we do life and work.

What I have shared above are but snippets of the multiple processes involved in Human Resources. There is are applications available today for each of the tasks that I have articulated above and more. AI and ML are here to stay and will play a key role not just in the future but in the present of how work gets done.

The next logical question is – if these technology solutions exist, is the work of the Human Resources group moot? Far from it. For the hologram to work, it needed Megha’s manager to learn how to first and foremost accept to use it and then to use it right. This is where HR will always play a role. Culture, transformation, change can only be implemented by people. The ‘Human’ aspect of HR cannot be done away with by the most innovative AI, it can only be enhanced.

Another question would be how can HR leverage these tools and machines to enhance Megha’s employee experience and help augment the firm’s Employee Value Proposition. The first step is to understand and appreciate the availability of these productivity-enhancing solutions and find ways to integrate the same in your forward looking processes so that it will free up time for your recruiting organizations (as an example) to focus on more value added activities. In addition, as we see a rapid rise to ‘remote work’, ChatBots can be used to provide real time updates and solutions to issues that employees might have while working from home.

How the technology function leverages the same in partnership with individual business functions to help position their firms to generate superior financial returns over a long run will turn out to be a fascinating journey if the cards are played right!