When AI meets HR, here’s what happens
According to a recent survey, 82% of HR leaders believe their roles will be completely different in a decade’s time.
Big things are happening, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) taking a starring role. At MHR Analytics, our research points to a similar conclusion. More than a third of the 500 companies we recently polled said they had adopted some form of AI in the past year, and almost half of the HR leaders we surveyed said that machine learning – a form of AI – will improve their HR function.
AI is already being put to work in key areas such as recruitment, onboarding and employee development. For talent teams, these technologies are helping to free up resources, make better decisions, and crucially, deliver the type of experience that encourages top talent to stick around.
Less time bogged down in processes and more time for people: This is perhaps AI’s most exciting promise – and one that forward-thinking people managers are already taking advantage of. So here’s a closer look at how HR is being transformed, along with a glimpse at what the future holds…
1. Talent spotting
With multiple positions to fill and a mountain of CVs to wade through, the traditional paper sift can turn into a major HR chore. Fortunately, however, help is already at hand in the form of Natural Language Processing (NLP).
With this category of AI, computers can go way beyond a basic keywords-based trawl of the text. Through NLP, machines have the ability to actually analyse context and understand meaning.
AI-driven recruiting tools such as Pomato provide a useful illustration of what’s possible. Upload the CVs, define your desired employee attributes and ask the machine to ‘read’ the documents to show you the most promising candidates. As well as saving time, this also avoids inevitable personal biases. By focusing only on the attributes that matter, AI-driven technology can help to introduce a welcome element of objectivity.
On-demand video interviewing isn’t exactly new. Candidates tend to be impressed by it, whilst hiring teams appreciate its ability to eliminate scheduling headaches. Now though, AI-driven video assessments are becoming an even more powerful part of the HR toolkit.
Choice of word, intonation, body language and more: just a 15-minute interview can generate 20,000 data points, which can be aggregated and used to assess and compare candidates, based on criteria proven to be predictive of job performance. This is according to the creators of HireVue, one of the new breed of video assessment tools.
Faced with multiple seemingly suitable candidates for recruitment or promotion, it’s easy to drift into ‘hiring on a hunch’. By contrast, AI-driven technology gives a concrete framework to base your decisions on. If data-driven HR decision making is the end-goal, AI is one of the most effective ways of reaching it.
3. Training and development
Show the new starter to their desk and tell them to plough through the workplace manual: it’s a sure-fire way to sap the enthusiasm of any promising recruit!
Given that an estimated 20% of turnover happens in the first 45 days of employment, it’s not surprising that forward-thinking HR teams are looking carefully at making their onboarding efforts more user-friendly. The right technology can have a big role to play in minimising staff attrition. Increasingly, this involves the deployment of AI.
Helping employees to help themselves: that’s the thinking behind providing an online training portal for your employees. With this type of solution, staff can get to grips with organisational rules and processes in bite-size chunks, participate in interactive tutorials and develop new skills, all from a single hub. AI-driven search and chatbot features can enhance your employee portal even further, allowing staff to ask any work-related question and instantly get an answer they can trust.
A greater self-service element in onboarding can mean your team spends less time on fielding routine organisational and technical queries. It frees up time to focus more on employee wellbeing as opposed to admin.
4. Employee satisfaction
As a rule, how well an organisation is doing depends on how well its people are doing. At its best, HR should be less about enforcement and more about building the type of environment in which employees can thrive.
So what kind of employee experience are we actually delivering? What do our people really think? Too often, the HR department only becomes aware of a particular problem once it has reached a tipping point; where relationships have broken down and employees already have a foot out of the door.
In answer to this, sentiment analysis allows HR teams to interpret potentially vast quantities of comments to uncover attitudes and concerns. At its most basic, an analytics tool can help you pick out the key areas of concern from staff surveys.
What’s more, combinations of AI-based NLP and machine learning allow analysis not just of surveys but also of open-ended comments and communications across an organisation (eg exchanges across Slack and email). As the tech evolves, it is also becoming increasingly effective at distinguishing between different types of emotion; even so far as being able to tell the difference between, say, confusion and worry.
For your HR team, this type of AI-driven tech can provide a valuable early warning system. Picking up on rumblings of discontent on a particular issue gives you the chance to respond proactively to it before it becomes a major problem.
What’s next for your HR team?
First off, AI is not an all-or-nothing game. So for instance, just because it’s technically possible to place the task of candidate assessment exclusively in the hands of a piece of software, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best course of action for your organisation.
A far more realistic approach to it will likely involve identifying your particular bottlenecks and considering what tools will enable you to address them. For instance, while you may be more than happy to rely on an analytical tool with NLP capabilities to help you narrow down a talent pool, you might still want to keep end-stage assessments firmly in the hands of humans.
Secondly, as outlined in MHR Analytics Ultimate Guide to AI, HR is by no means the only department where AI-based transformation is happening. In areas such as project management, sales and finance, advanced modelling capabilities can give managers a much better ability to predict their future resource needs, including their staffing requirements. It’s always worth making sure these insights are being fed through to HR as soon as they are made available. After all, insight is only of value if you act on it – and it’s here that your role is always vital.
By Laura Timms, Product Strategy Manager, MHR Analytics
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.