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Editorial Team
13 Nov 2019

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Tech in HR is good but people make it great

HR Technology

Technology is marching onward in HR, bringing in a number of advantages. What is also important is to retain the human touch

Artificial intelligence in particular – and technology in general – are often made out to be the proverbial swords hanging over the necks of everyone working in jobs that have thus far been handled by humans. As with most matters, though, it is not a simple case of black or white, but a whole lot of grey! Many of the jobs that exist today will not exist in 2030, while the converse is equally true: of the kinds of jobs that will exist in 2030, many do not exist today.

Pining for numbers? Take this: in 2018, McKinsey surveyed more than 3,000 C-suite executives in Canada, Europe, the UK, and the US. More than three-quarters expected AI and automation to cause no net change in their workforce size, and over 17% expect their workforces on both sides of the Atlantic to grow. Also, data science tasks today require humans to extract useful insights, but research from Gartner in 2018 suggested that by 2020, automation will take over more than 40% of such tasks. This will bring the benefits of higher productivity and broader usage.

Will HR now be digitally done?

Yes – as well a lot else. Digital HR means data, apps, and analytics, all of which are easy to access, fast to act, and interactive. The workforce is going digital, if not already there, with round-the-clock access to information and data at home as well as office, along with self-service options. Not surprisingly, they want employers who can offer similar conveniences at work.

Does AI offer any significant advantages over humans in HR duties?

Of course! Over time, there is much to gain:

  • Short-term: Costs, accuracy, quality, and experience
  • Medium-term: Interaction, prediction analytics, self-learning
  • Long-term: Better decision-making, automated tasks, improved productivity of the workforce

The key benefits of AI over humans include the following:

  • AI brings automation: A small company with say 50 people could possibly manage very well with one HR person addressing all concerns and responsibilities; a scale that up to 100,000 or even 1,000 people and the tables turn disadvantageously! AI can automate many of the time-consuming, low-value, and repetitive tasks.
  • Human involvement is not feasible everywhere: For reasons similar to those mentioned above, it is not possible to have a human being handling every task for the entire workforce. Chatbots and portals powered by AI help in handling a lot of such duties.
  • AI is bias-free: When it comes to job applications as well as performance appraisals, AI looks at different candidates just as data sets and studies them as per parameters fed in. There is no subjectivity involved; hence, no partiality.

What HR tasks could technology help to do better?

Many! A number of things HR does could be done even better with the aid of technology, particularly AI. Let’s look at some of those below:

  • Hiring: Organizations can access numerous data sources and possible ways to reach prospective candidates, such as social networking, for one. They can also get access to new insights for better candidate profiles.
  • Employee information: Viewing and updating this data becomes simpler with AI tools, making it easier for employees and employers to access addresses, emergency contacts, leave applications, approval status, and more.
  • Planning of training needs: Team managers can use AI for skill-gap assessments and plan training for their team members accordingly. Employees and managers can work with conversational AI to track their training progress.
  • Business transaction data: In accordance with their authority levels, managers and employees can access data on performance ratings, team information, job history and more.
  • Automating low-value, repetitive tasks: AI allows HR to focus on strategic work, especially things that only humans can do well. Tasks such as onboarding, common questions, and employee requests, and basic benefits management can be managed with technology, saving time for the HR team.

Are there any challenges in HR getting techier?

You bet! With the veritable onslaught of technology, HR at successful businesses faces a number of challenges today:

  • Getting a multi-generational workforce to work together well
  • Putting in place a culture that serves customers but equally also nurtures employees
  • Evolving the employee relations framework to what is increasingly being referred to as “human experience management”

Don’t forget that AI is just a tool!

There is much that can be done – and should be done – to keep human resources human (not a typo!). Here are some of the ways in which HR can make sensible, employee-centered technology decisions:

  • Balance employee touchpoints with technological tools: Decide how much technology is too much, and enhance HR effectiveness without losing touch with technological advancements or the employees themselves
  • Incorporate the human touch: some AI-based coaching solutions offer the facility to directly connect with mentors for real-time counseling
  • Streamline and personalize the employee experience: an intuitive user interface and material that is easy to consume and encourages interaction with and between employees, are key to an improved experience
  • Work with the technology vendors: those who provide apps and platforms are best placed to work with in order to create versions giving due attention to the individuality of the workforce

Some measures taken at progressively-minded companies are given below:

  • Role-playing through computer-driven avatars as a tactic to improve communication between employees of differing age and experience levels, with technology measuring the effectiveness of the process
  • A chatbox Q&A format that makes it easier for employees to ask questions and be less hesitant about the same

Do not lose the human touch!

HR, in particular, is by definition heavily – if not completely – reliant on relationships, where machines and software cannot converse quite as humans can. Technology in general – and AI in particular – offer numerous tools. Remember always that tools are great, but it is people who make them work!

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