How AI-focused HR Automation Is The Future Of Work

The HR department can be thought of as the company’s core. It is where the primary resources of your company—your employees—are selected, managed, and retained.

Meanwhile, consider what would happen if the company’s core did not execute at peak levels. Workflows would slow, and employees would quickly become dissatisfied with their circumstances. It could lead to decreased efficiency, fewer sales, and ultimately, decreased revenue.

Fortunately, today, we have the option of leveraging HR automation to free up time for focusing on the most crucial functions. Moreover, we have the option of eliminating repetitive, time-consuming, and strained workflows.

Most HR functions would have been further impacted by the sudden and unplanned shift to remote work in 2020 if companies had not adopted new digitalization practices.

So, while the future of work has been discussed and debated, everyone can agree on one thing. Automation and digitalization are inevitable in the post-pandemic world, particularly when it comes to HR functions.

The Age Of Digital HR And Its Challenges

Namely, more than 80 percent of CEOs say HR has played a leading role in responding to the impact of COVID-19, proving the C-suite depends on HR to rally the workforce through disruptive times.

The new digital HR is a value driver. But with the double-edged disruption of automation and remote-working, today’s digital HR professionals face new and unpredictable challenges.

Redefining Roles

With the rise in HR process automation, many HR roles must also be redefined as well. Meanwhile, a lack of technology skills among non-IT staff can be a critical challenge for digital HR teams.

Employee Training 

There is a significant disconnect between current HR skillsets and the internal digitalization of HR teams. But the learning and development-oriented training required to bring HR teams up to speed are typically outdated and ineffective.

HR Automation Affects The Entire Workforce 

Automating HR functions is easier said than done. Many HR functions are actually HR Delivery Services. These services are how an HR team interacts with and provides services to the rest of the workforce.

When it comes to automating these HR Delivery Services, the rest of the workforce must go through proper training.

Implementation Takes Time

Digital HR transformation necessitates rethinking and rewriting the rules of people management, performance management, leadership, recruiting, and many other areas.

Onboarding these new approaches will require considerable time management, resources, and experimentation.

How AI-Based Solutions Simplify Typical HR Functions

Undoubtedly, AI or artificial intelligence is the next big driver of transformation. AI is already changing HR operations by making them more efficient, allowing for better decision-making, and automating routine tasks.

Accordingly to a 2017 KPMG survey, 56 percent of respondents expect to see an improved performance due to HR automation. Meanwhile, 54 percent believe that sophisticated algorithms will free up people for more strategic tasks.

AI, cognitive processing, advanced analytics, and digital applications are all transforming how HR teams operate. Here are a few ways through which AI-based automation could simplify your people processes.

HR Chatbots Help Streamline Communication

Cognitive automation uses NLP (natural language processing) to interact with employees through HR chatbots. Think of it as an HR cloud-based digital assistant. It handles things like general inquiries, routine transactions, time-off requests, and payroll management.

AI Makes Recruiting Easier

Automation makes sourcing talents much simpler yet less biased. AI-based hiring tools can efficiently filter CVs, shortlist applicants, schedule interviews, collect interview data, help streamline the employee onboarding process, and manage new hires.

Cloud-based AI tools are used to compare job candidates to employees who have excelled in similar roles within the organization.

AI Enhances the Employee Experience

HR professionals can enhance employee experience by harnessing AI-based automation and digital tools on employee-centric programs.

These programs can range from rewards and recognition, employee benefits and compensation, employee surveys, and more. Automation of such programs ensures that engaging people is a continuous, timely, and measurable business process.

AI Aids In Decision-Making

AI-based tools empower HR leaders to make intelligent and faster decisions through tracking employee trends, insights, and data. Non-human involvement also attributes to fewer errors.

Additionally, discussing the complete role of AI in simplifying business processes is beyond the scope of this article. But what we will be discussing is why HR leaders must focus on going digital as soon as possible.

Does HR Automation Truly Drive Better Business Performance?

Digital-first human resource management focuses on innovation and automates everyday administrative tasks. Meanwhile, HR professionals can focus on doing priority tasks. Measuring and improving productivity, understanding talent needs, designing the future workplace, and more.

Here’s how AI-based automation will help them do so.

Workforce Insights 

Data is the new currency of today’s world. Without it, you might very well be shooting in the dark. That stands true for HR too, as attracting and retaining talent is a crucial function of HR.

With the implementation of AI-based tools, collecting, assessing, and acting on data-driven insights becomes a lot easier. It answers some vital questions like, “What benefits do employees really want?” and “Why is the turnover rate higher than last year?”

Competitive Advantage 

According to a Unit 4 survey, office workers spend 69 days annually on administrative activities. Ultimately, it ends up costing businesses $5 trillion each year.

Automation software will streamline HR functions, increasing employee productivity, efficiency, and engagement. Thus, if a company continues to rely on manual workflows, it risks losing its competitive edge.

Employee Experience

In the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, 80 percent of HR and business leaders responded that employee experience was “important” or “extremely important” to them.

It reflects how today’s leaders understand that keeping their workforce happy is vital to “future-proof” a company.

AI and automation software can help you design the perfect employee experience through the timely collection, analysis, and monitoring of employee-centric data. This data can include metrics like engagement levels, onboarding data, exit data, and so on.

How Will HR Automation Affect Your Workforce?

One major upheaval that will come with HR automation is the eventual need for workforce shaping.

Workforce shaping is the process of redefining employee roles and responsibilities to meet the demand of a digitally transformed workplace. It means that no job role is a fixed one. An employee can have a completely different job role by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the job requirements will change, and the pool of candidates will get more diverse.

It will be easier than ever to use HR automation software to improve the employee value proposition. The employee value proposition refers to the benefits you provide an employee in exchange for their performance.

HR professionals can use AI-based HR tools to focus on the critical factors of making an employee feel engaged. Specifically, these factors include performance-based recognition, compensation, employee benefits, career development, and more.

Key Takeaway

In conclusion, HR automation represents the inevitable digital transformation shift that experts long predicted.

It may be difficult to manage a mostly remote workforce–but only until HR teams become accustomed to the digitization of their day-to-day operations.

Image by MNBB Studio

HR Automation: Understanding the Limits of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been infiltrating the business world for the past several years and has also played a major role in HR automation. Today, companies across all industries are using AI to automate a variety of job tasks and replace human capital. And by the mid-2030s, PwC estimates, 30% of all jobs will be automated.

The COVID-19 pandemic only promises to accelerate this trend. Now more than ever, business units are looking to boost their efficiency and save money through automation ‒ and HR is no exception. Automation has the potential to help HR teams recruit, hire, and train employees — and many organizations already use AI-driven software to carry out these tasks.

At first glance, it might make sense to hand some of these repetitive responsibilities to computers instead of humans. But as the executive director of an organization that teaches tech skills and works with companies on talent solutions, I believe these HR functions should remain largely human-driven.

HR automation can — and often does — go awry. Amazon’s HR team experienced this back in 2018, when it was using an algorithm to automatically review résumés. Unbeknownst to them, their AI was penalizing job applicants whose résumés included the word “women.” This bias went on for a solid year before the company noticed, causing the elimination of countless qualified candidates.

This cautionary tale illustrates why HR teams should be wary when implementing automation into their workflows. After all, AI might look like an enticing, cost-effective tool for screening candidates and building teams. But it can also cause your company to waste time and resources.

The Invaluable Human Element in HR

HR is all about humans. It requires a level of knowledge, nuance, and critical thought that simply cannot be replicated by even the most sophisticated AI solutions. As this technology continues to evolve, HR practitioners must remain vigilant about their use of automation. They also must ensure they appropriately devote human minds to the tasks that require them.

Looking ahead, HR teams can play a key strategic role in helping their companies prepare for the automation revolution. Here are three ways they can do so:

1. Futurecast for the Workforce of Tomorrow

According to the World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs Report 2020,” automation could displace 85 million jobs and create 97 million new jobs by 2025. No industry will be immune to this massive redistribution.

What skills will your company need one year from now, five years from now, and 10 years from now? HR professionals should steep themselves in market research and trends, and they should start proactively hiring for those skills today. Companies that conduct this analysis early and often will put themselves at a considerable advantage in the future.

2. Identify Opportunities (and Inevitabilities)

HR teams should keep a close eye on where automation is heading in their industries and how other companies are using this technology effectively. They should help their companies identify which positions are solid candidates for automation, which tasks should be driven by humans, and which jobs could be flat-out eliminated.

As jobs are automated and redistributed over time, companies will find themselves continually needing different skill sets across each department. HR practitioners should keep a watchful eye on how their teams are changing and continuously reassess the human skills that matter most. Creating and executing a reskilling program that trains existing employees in these skills will only serve your company well.

3. Evaluating Candidates for Reskilling and Upskilling

After developing an automation road map, HR teams can start reskilling and upskilling high-performing employees for the jobs of the future. First, they should identify adaptable workers who demonstrate a passion for learning new skills. They should encourage these individuals to pursue new roles after their jobs are automated, then provide them with learning opportunities.

This reskilling program must be crafted and carried out by human intelligence. It requires a series of interviews and heartfelt conversations, as well as a keen eye for soft skills. AI might be able to quickly sort through résumés and search for keywords. On some level, AI can also identify people who are qualified for the job — on paper. But AI cannot assess a candidate’s soft skills or persuade them to change their career path. Even newer technology that can detect facial expressions and vocal tones during video interviews cannot accurately assess a candidate’s fitness for a job. Traditional human-to-human interaction is the only way to uncover someone’s intangible attributes and their openness to reskilling.

HR Automation: Proceed with Caution

Automation remains poised to completely transform the industrial world. This incredible technology is forcing millions of companies to rethink their inner workings. It is exciting to imagine the multitude of ways companies can use AI to become smarter and more efficient. And yet businesses should proceed with caution when implementing it in the HR realm.

Team-building is a delicate process, and as we know, automation can present many drawbacks. Leaders must delegate vital HR tasks to human intelligence, not computer code. To help companies cope with the rise of automation, HR teams must use their critical thinking skills to assess the technological landscape, understand talent gaps, and identify opportunities for reskilling.



Is HR Ready for Blockchain Technology?

Recruiters would likely be thrilled by the arrival of a faster, more efficient way to verify the credentials of job candidates, a system that could save precious time and dollars in confirming the education, certifications, work experience or skills of applicants, particularly those in the gig economy.

Payroll managers would undoubtedly welcome a new technology that makes international payroll less complex and costly, allowing for more timely and efficient cross-border payments to global employees.

Those are two applications of blockchain technology likely to impact human resources soon, industry experts say. Blockchain is best known as the backbone technology for the digital currency bitcoin; it is an encrypted, digital ledger of public records organized into groups of data called blocks and distributed over networks, said Kevin Wheeler, founder and president of Global Learning Resources, a talent strategy consulting firm in Fremont, Calif. Blockchain is a type of decentralized database that allows everyone in a “chain” to see and verify the details of every record.

How Blockchain Works

“Blockchain is a way to store personal information about candidates or employees in a secure, confidential manner and make it available to anyone with permission from those individuals,” Wheeler said. Such a system could automate and speed the process of verifying job candidates’ credentials, saving recruiters from having to contact multiple sources to confirm historical information; could reduce resume fraud; and could improve time-to-hire, experts believe. Blockchain also could one day transform global payroll by cutting out the banks—the “middle men”—that add time and costs to the process.

Experts at Human Resource Executive’s 20th Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas in October said they expect blockchain to come to HR within the next 18-24 months.

More than 40 top financial institutions and a growing number of companies across industries are already using blockchain, according to The Wall Street Journal, and companies like Microsoft and IBM have made huge investments in the technology. Organizations are using blockchain for financial transactions, for supply chain management and to create “smart” legal contracts.

The data in a blockchain cannot be deleted or changed, only added to, Wheeler said, and it is required that everyone connected to each block must agree before new information can be added into a chain. Job candidates or companies are assigned a digital ID and can add specific types of data to the chain, such as college grades or degrees, Wheeler said.

​”Blockchain has the potential of helping recruiters verify candidate credentials in a highly secure way and reducing chances of credentials being altered or faked,” said Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics at IT consulting firm Sierra-Cedar, which conducts the annual HR Systems Survey. “It takes a lot of time and resources to do that kind of background checking on candidates today, particularly in areas that go beyond regulatory or legal matters.”

Harris said blockchain may have value when applied to the gig economy, where verifying the skills, knowledge and past assignments of contingent workers can be challenging. “I’ve seen some movement and discussion about using blockchain to validate vendor credentials, and I think we could one day see that expand within HR to the full contingent workforce,” Harris said.

Self-Sovereign Digital IDs

Daniel Roddy is a senior manager with Deloitte Consulting, headquartered in New York. Roddy specializes in human capital products and innovation, and he sees “significant opportunities” for blockchain technology in HR. “It is early days for the technology, both in terms of its maturity and the creation of the kind of large consortiums needed to gain alignment on how blockchain systems will work,” Roddy said. “But there is considerable potential for human resources.”

For example, blockchain may make the concept of a “self-sovereign identity” for employees a reality, Roddy said. “It’s the idea of individuals being able to fully control data about themselves,” he said. Blockchain systems would reduce the chances of third-party companies providing inaccurate historical data about a candidate or existing employee, since those individuals would have greater input and control over data that’s already been verified by multiple parties.

For example, if a recruiter used blockchain to verify a job candidate’s claim of achieving a certification, the candidate would first have to release access to a blockchain entry cross-signed by the certifying body, Roddy said. Once the certification is confirmed within the blockchain, the candidate controls who can access it with a digital “key.”

Similarly, job candidates would hold the power to release a blockchain entry cross-signed by universities to verify degrees they earned or specific classes taken. “That also eliminates the need for the potential employer to have to contact the school to verify the degree and classes taken, saving considerable time,” Roddy said. “That potential employer also wouldn’t need to see personally identifiable information around that entry, it would just be ‘green’ or ‘red’ in terms of the candidate’s decision to release the information, making it more secure.”

​The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is piloting a diploma system that can be accessed by such a digital key. The system allows MIT students to access and “own” a secure and certifiable digital file of their MIT diploma; the digital diploma is provided in addition to a standard physical diploma.

Some start-up blockchain companies also have begun operating in the recruiting space. Last year Recruit Technologies and Ascribe announced a partnership to develop a prototype blockchain resume authentication service for job hunters. The service would enable the digital verification of official certificates and resumes, previously done on paper. The two partner companies claim the effort of collecting multiple official certificates would be reduced for job hunters, and recruiters could handle confidential official certificates safely and without worry of fraud.

Payroll Applications

Experts believe blockchain also could have advantages for payroll, particularly for payments made internationally. Global payroll can be costly and often delayed because of the many intermediary banks and third parties involved in the process. Blockchain’s ability to simplify and standardize payments by eliminating the middle man may make it attractive to payroll managers.

“As a practical matter blockchain for payroll is not that difficult,” Roddy said. “Money today can be moved around the world instantly to bitcoin wallets for reasonable costs. What’s holding up use are the many statutory requirements and legal entities that govern how pay can be delivered, what currencies it can happen in and related regulatory issues.”

One company already operating a blockchain-based payroll system is Bitwage, a San Francisco-based organization that uses the technology to facilitate cross-border payments through use of bitcoin. Bitwage allows employees or contractors around the world to be paid by organizations in their preferred currency, handling the conversion of bitcoin to local funds.Workers can use 25 different currencies to receive wages, and Bitwage promises to pay out within 48 hours regardless of where workers are located.

Australian company Chronobank also uses blockchain-type technology to allow employers to pay contract workers without going through banks.

Other Potential HR Uses

There eventually may be other valuable uses for blockchain within HR beyond recruiting and payroll, experts say. “Blockchain has the potential to keep employees’ health records and make them available to anyone with permission, while keeping that data secure,” Wheeler said.

Blockchain also could be used for employee learning records or other information kept in HR databases, since it promises a higher level of security than many existing technologies. Harris said some vendors in the learning and development space are exploring the potential of blockchain to verify skill sets and capabilities.

“There are some current challenges but, once the network effect kicks in, the growth of blockchain technology could be exponential,” said Jeff Mike, vice president and HR research leader for New York City-based consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte. “That makes now a good time for HR leaders to become familiar with blockchain. They should be thinking about how processes could change in their worlds with the existence of a secure, validated digital identity ‘owned’ by candidates or employees, not by third parties.” 

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer in Minneapolis.

This article was first published on SHRM.

Employee Onboarding is Broken: HR Tech is the Fix

There are a couple of truths about why employee onboarding in the enterprise is broken and why HR Tech is the only solution

  1. There are multiple Systems of Records that a new hire has to deal with — Recruitment software, HRMS, payroll, LMS etc.
  2. Too many processes are manually driven that do not scale well — as result of point #1.

Employee Experience & Culture has been receiving a lot of interest lately. The fact that we are talking about the employee “experience” means that there is something fundamentally lacking in it currently. Let’s take a closer look at new hire experience and the two reasons stated above.

REASON 1: Multiple Systems of Records (SoR) & Processes

If you were to do a post-mortem study of how enterprise architectures are created — you would find the reason why…

Year 1 — Bought ERP & Payroll software — cause business cannot be done with them

Year 2 — Bought HRMS software

Year 3 — Bought Sales Software

Year 4 — Bought Learning Software

Year 5 — Bought Code Management Software

Year 6 — Bought Recruitment Software

And it goes on and on… the single truth is that, more often than not, these are all disparate systems that find it hard to talk to each other. The products were never built to seamlessly talk to each other. There are no sophisticated APIs and the data dictionaries are completely different. One calls it “first name” and the other one calls it “name 1”.

The tragedy of multiple systems is that it requires a level above it to orchestrate the whole circus going on behind the scenes.

New hires are expected to complete some of their details in the recruitment software, then, once offered a job — complete data capture in another system or on paper, get content as PDFs and notifications on email, receive phone calls from the HR team and try and self-assimilate all of this together to get a perspective of the company. It’s hard enough joining a new company and stressing about the first few months — but given the current state of onboarding — one must acknowledge the challenge that onboarding is for the employee.

REASON 2: Manual processes

Processes that depend on humans are always more susceptible to failure. In most organizations, employee onboarding relies a great deal on human intervention. However, due to the disparities in delivery of the same function over and over again, every new hire receives a different experience.

For a very few number, everything works perfectly as they are welcomed to the organization. For most, manual HR coordination result in delays, incomplete information or complete failures in processes.

HR tech solutions allow for automation of most of these mundane and historically manual processes. Apart from the significant cost & time savings, the advantage of automation also results in providing the best experience for each new hire — at any scale.

So, what’s next?

Technology can help make the onboarding process easier and a better employee experience. Here are a few things you could consider when looking at more technology lest it not add to another disconnected system of record :)

  1. First and foremost, adopt HR Tech that can automate & improve the employee onboarding experience!
  2. Make sure the technology chosen to automate can also orchestrate processes across the other existing systems in your enterprise

As an aside, the advantage of having a completely integrated infrastructure is the result of having data. Data is the most valuable asset you have. A single view of the employee data can lead to insights that help in making leadership, training and investment decisions.

I would love to know what your thoughts are on the multiple systems that drive the HR process today and the lack of a single view point on the entire employee onboarding process? Do you think new-age HR Tech is the answer? How do you manage at your organization?

Photo Credit: nikosandriotis Flickr via Compfight cc