AI in HR: Managing the digital workforce

Employees might fear AI as a threat to jobs, but AI can support HR in many different roles, says Arun Khehar of Oracle

Tags: Artifical intelligenceChatbotHuman capital managementOracle Corporation
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AI in HR: Managing the digital workforce AI can help to manage the workforce, support recruitment and play other roles in the HR field, says Khehar.
By  Arun Khehar Published  July 10, 2018

There are two competing forces impacting the world of HR. On one hand, the rate of social and business change is accelerating, resulting in an ever more complex socioeconomic environment. On the other, employees are pushing for even simpler, more engaging and human-like interactions. To strike this balance, leading HR practitioners are starting to leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and chatbots to support rapid business changes.

Employee experience becomes more human

Businesses have long recognised the importance of delivering a memorable experience for customers. As millennials and Gen Z become the largest share of the global workforce, more organisations will be applying the same mindset to keep their employees engaged and productive. Central is understanding employees want meaning, value, connection, recognition, and personal growth at work. They expect work to give similar experiences with technology that they have at home – intuitive interfaces, quick responses, and access to real-time information.

We will see exponential growth in the use of AI, chatbots, machine learning, mobile solutions, and social platforms to make work more enjoyable, simple, and engaging. According to Forrester, by the year 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will be spending more per annum on bots and chatbots creation than traditional mobile app development.

This movement towards using tools that mimic our senses enables us to communicate in a more natural way by augmenting the way employees interact with technology, data and information.

A platform for the boardroom

As the voice of employees in the boardroom, HR leaders play an integral role in balancing human skills with machine-based efficiency. This will require them to understand the capabilities of robotics technologies and their potential impact on the workforce so they can help shape the organisation’s response.

As machines permeate the organisation, HR is working with line managers to develop automation strategies for their teams. This involves a change in the shape and structure of the workforce as well as identifying the skills that are required to create effective training and development programmes which help people work better alongside machines, and ultimately help the organisation and employees get the best of both worlds. Just as importantly, HR has a role as the company’s conscience, balancing the drive for efficiency with a wider perspective. After all, just because a process can be automated does not mean it should be.

Critical to this is security. The actions of a single employee, whether malicious or accidental can open up a business to the risk of data loss, regulatory fines, prosecution and an uncertain future. As organisations embrace the power of artificial intelligence in the constant monitoring of applications, systems and infrastructure to detect and evaluate anomalous behaviour as it is happening. However, it is important to do this without creating a Big Brother atmosphere which risks disengaging and disenfranchising employees.

Productivity and agility in the AI age

For companies to thrive in the face of ever-accelerating change, they need to excel at adapting to fast-changing market dynamics, customer demands and technological innovations. In this time of change HR is working with business leaders to model the future workforce and reassess hiring and staffing plans, taking into account the impact automation will have on new job roles, skills and processes. They will also be using contextual data and workforce modelling technology to short-circuit problems like attrition and turnover, better understand their workforce and talent pool to make work smarter, more enjoyable and collaborative.

For example, redesigned ‘newsfeed’ style interfaces that leverage AI to help employees focus on actions and decisions. Here, analytics snapshots can elevate key business insights and company-related news. Businesses are now also able to offer a ‘self-driving’ promotion process that helps employees reach their objectives and succeed in their current positions by providing proactive alerts.

Recruiting becomes more human


AI for recruiting will become a dominant theme for HR technology. Recruiting leaders will use AI to gain deep insights into talent needs, understand where and how to source candidates, reduce time-consuming activities like manually screening resumes, and identify the right candidates from a large and diverse applicant pool. According to the Forrester 2018 Predictions Report, by 2020, candidates applying to jobs at 20% of large global enterprises will interact with chatbots before recruiters.

Powerful, built-in AI capabilities and guided paths create a simple and personalised experience from a candidate’s first interaction, through to hiring and onboarding. For example, new chatbot functionality allows candidates to search for jobs and get questions answered directly through channels like Facebook Messenger, while also automatically alerting candidates to updates and needed actions on their channel of choice. Alongside this, advanced machine learning capabilities help reduce the time it takes to fill open positions by highlighting best-fit candidates and proactively identifying prospects and employees who should be invited to apply.

There is fear about AI but its promise for employees and organisations is great. The use of AI in people management strategies will ensure employees play a central role in developing new employment models and new roles for the existing workforce. This requires leadership of HR executives who embrace change and who put technology as a central tenant of their HR strategy.

Arun Khehar is Senior Vice President - ECEMEA (East Central Europe, Russia, Middle East & Africa) at Oracle.

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