Nov 27, 2020

Reinventing HR operations with humans and AI collaboration

human capital
Georgia Wilson
5 min
Human capital
As AI continues to prove its value across multiple sectors and business function, Business Chief looks at how the tech is reinventing HR operations...

Expected to be the most significant business advantage in the future by 72% of executives, artificial intelligence (AI) is predicted to be incorporated into 47% of organisations’ HR functions by 2022.

While it is feared that employment rates will drop as the use of intelligent technologies rises, when speaking with Business Chief in October, Arun Shenoy, SVP Global Sales and Marketing at Serverfarm reflected on the best way to deploy technology, software and hardware tools. “Most organisations find this challenging because they are only solving one part of the problem - the technology. Simply buying and deploying a platform isn’t enough; you have to change and refine the processes and ensure that you have the right people,” commented Shenoy. 

In fact, speaking with executive experts in HR operations, the consensus highlights that benefits of AI in HR operations come from a collaborative approach between AI and humans, with a core use case being to provide efficiency gains. “It has allowed us to do the same thing we always did - but faster and more cost effective,” comments Andi Britt, Senior Partner at IBM Talent & Transformation, IBM Services Europe. While the internet brought the capability of fast recruitment, both Britt and Chris Huff, CSO at Kofax identify that AI can apply the same speed to the assessment of potential candidates, the likelihood of future success and the expected timeframe to fill a given role. “This is an example of the ways in which AI is changing the situation so that technology enables the HR function to solve critical business challenges, building on earlier contributions from workforce analytics,” added Britt. 

With COVID-19 placing organisation and business operations on the edge of a pivotal moment when it comes to innovation and digital transformation, AI and automation have transitioned from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘necessity for survival’. “COVID-19 has created a digital awakening that has accelerated the adoption of AI and automation technologies,” comments Huff. It is expected by those in HR that COVID-19 will not only accelerate the overall digital journey for organisations, but the role of HR in the modern workplace. This acceleration will ultimately move organisations closer to HR 3.0 with employee experience at its centre. “CHROs at high performing organisations are taking immediate action to achieve this vision. They are leveraging real-time unstructured data from inside and outside organisations, and pairing that with analytics and AI to improve talent and workforce decisions while enabling more personalised employee experiences,” says Britt. 

Statistics reported during the height of the pandemic, identified that many organisations are embracing AI tools to attract diverse talent and to enhance and personalise recruitment. In an IBM HR executive survey, the company identified that more than half of high performing companies are using AI to identify behavioral skills to build diverse and adaptable teams. Currently, “High performing organisations are leveraging AI across talent acquisition at a rate of 6 times more than all other companies.” During the pandemic, IBM saw its clients rely heavily on AI enabled HR applications such as chatbots and skill building recommendation platforms. “These technologies enable organisations to free up HR leaders’ time for more meaningful work. C-Suite leaders surveyed expect to see nearly tenfold growth with regard to automating HR processes between 2018 and 2022,” comments Britt. However, while the rate of adoption has increased, IBM found that only 30% of companies have the skills and capabilities in AI in the HR function.

To be successful in adopting AI in HR operations - or any technology - culture is identified as an all to often underestimated barrier. It is important for organisations to ensure that they include their employees in the transformation journey. When employees understand the reasoning for change they are more receptive, making it easier to implement and adopt technology. Ultimately, “Progress has to start from the top, with good leadership and open conversation to dispel fears and misunderstandings about the technology,” states Britt. Not only is it important to engage with employees to showcase the business needs, it is also important to listen to the needs of the employees conducting the tasks. 

By combining the best of what AI can provide, with employee hopes for the technology, Huff explains that this approach is ”a win-win that will increase adoption of AI and lead to a collaborative person-machine future to drive productivity for the organisation and individual.” With this collaborative approach to AI and humans, HR is on the cusp of a new digital era in which employees adopt a more behind-the-scenes role to create the scenarios carried out by AI. “People will find themselves in more creative, strategy, problem defining and problem escalation roles as opposed to transactional activities,” concludes Huff. 

The benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) in HR

“Today, AI’s capabilities are being used to augment business operations and consumer solutions,” comments Andi Britt, Senior Partner at IBM Talent & Transformation, IBM Services Europe. At IBM, the company has identified five reasons for implementing AI in HR operations:

  1. To solve pressing business challenges
  2. To attract and develop new skills
  3. To improve the employee experience 
  4. To provide strong decision support
  5. To use HR budgets as efficiently as possible

The challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) in HR

“Current HR and AI trends point to a promising Future of Work that’s richer in experience, but also brings with it the need for strong governance to account for unintended consequences,” comments Chris Huff, CSO at Kofax. When it comes to the successful adoption of AI to deliver on its promising future, IBM identifies four key prevention barriers:

  1. Access to the right data: it is vital that organisations develop a complete understanding of the data involved, by harnessing comprehensive metadata libraries.
  2. Access to the right talent and skills: with AI skills in high demand, organisations should look to upskill existing employees, boost data and tech literacy and find the right partners.
  3. Get the technology right: with the adoption of AI, organisations often require an update to the technology used to collect, store and process data. Digitally native companies typically have an advantage due to their nimble and scalable businesses models.
  4. Ethical and governance frameworks: while AI can provide huge benefits, misused it can have negative results, such as bias and intrusive AI. To remove bias organisations should ensure that data privacy and security are at the forefront of their approach, as well as a clear ethical and governance frameworks.

For more information on business topics in the United States and Canada, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief North America.

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Jun 20, 2021

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Healthy Workplace Culture

5 min
As the world embraces Men’s Health Week, five experts advise how leaders can create a healthy workplace culture for employees

This week (14th-20th June 2021) is Men’s Health Week. Physical and mental well-being have been important considerations for leaders over the past year, and it is essential this focus is maintained as we build back for the future. Here we have asked 5 experts for practical tips leaders can implement to create healthy workplace cultures.


Know the early signs of burnout 

Recently it was reported by the BBC that burnout for health and social care staff had reached emergency levels. 

Monkey Puzzle Training Co-Founder Karen Meager has studied the burnout recovery process in partnership with Coventry University: “The past year has seen people suffer from job-loss worries, work from home challenges, isolation, and feeling overworked. These are continuing, and all have the potential to contribute towards burnout. Healthcare workers, executives, leaders, managers and small business owners will continue to be the top people to suffer from extreme burnout.”

“At the onset of burnout, people commonly enter a phase of denial. So leaders need to be aware of those who are reluctant to take their time off, are compelled to work all hours, or have changes in their behaviour or mood, as these can all be indications of burnout taking hold. Encouraging them to take a burnout self-test provides a starting point to supporting these employees through recovery, as is role modelling healthy sustainable ways of working.Karen suggests.


Encourage professional self-reflection 

Creating an environment that encourages self-reflection is an effective tool for promoting personal development. Journaling may not be something you instantly think of for professional development; however, it is a successful technique for adults to aid mindfulness and productivity. “Journaling is a form of self-expression that can empower you to understand your feelings and ambitions and how to deal with them, therefore promoting positive well-being and a healthy workplace culture,” describes Elisa Nardi, founder of Notebook Mentor


Just 15-20 minutes of journaling a day over the course of four months are enough to lessen the impact of physical stressors on your health,” explains Elisa. “It can also inspire creativity, aid your memory, and help set actionable goals. It is an underused tool that can help employees manage tricky workplace situations such as conflict, illness or new leadership roles.


Manage your stress and resilience too

As a leader or manager, often, your complete focus is on the business or protecting your team, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. Leaders should also have strategies in place to manage their own stress, so they can sustain high levels of positive energy throughout the day. “Fueled by a burning desire for success, I ignored all the warning signs of exhaustion, which eventually took its toll on me - I literally collapsed from stress, and I didn’t even see it coming.” reflects Sascha Heinemann, an expert in Performance Recovery and Stress Resilience.


“When leaders manage their energy, create healthy daily habits, and practice resilience, they are able to perform to their fullest capacity and to provide the best possible support for others.” 


“Taking a break every 90 minutes or so helps you to refuel, recharge, and re-energize and ultimately allows you to get more accomplished, in less time, at a higher level of quality, and more sustainably. This role model contributes dramatically to a healthier, more engaged, sustainable, and productive workplace culture," he adds.


Instil a sense of purpose for your team

The idea that success equals working 12-15 hour days and giving everything of yourself to your workplace continues to prevail in many organisations. This is not healthy, nor is it productive for anyone involved. “The healthiest and happiest workplace cultures are the ones that are organised around purpose.” describes business and life coach Anand Kulkarni. 


“Leaders should be giving meaning to the work they are doing within their business and beyond and sharing this purpose with their staff, rather than focusing on long hours, crippling workloads or someone else’s idea of ‘success’. When people understand why they are doing what they do and how this contributes to something greater, productivity and well-being is increased.” adds Anand. 


Promote well-being from the top down

Leaders need to act as role models if well-being is to become embedded at the very core of the organisation. It’s very unlikely that employees will start acting in a new way that puts their own needs first if the leadership team continues to behave in an entirely different manner.


‘Many organisations have worked hard in recent months to put new policies in place that better support well-being, promote hybrid working and attempt to set clear boundaries, but many leaders seem to assume that they are exempt from it all, that’s when it all falls over’, explains leadership experts Martin Boroson and Carmel Moore, from The One Moment Company. 


A recent ONS report into Homeworking in the UK revealed that people are on average working 6 hours extra per week, and many are working until late in the evening, indicating that the boundaries between work and life are more blurred than ever. 


Despite all of these wonderful opportunities for people to self-organise, if the leadership team continues to work in the office Monday to Friday, or are communicating at all hours, then it’s a clear indicator that hybrid working is simply a ‘bolt-on’ tactic rather than an integral part of the company’s approach to promoting the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.’

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