hrtechoutlook

Technology driving HR transformation

By Chinmay Sharma, Director People & Culture – Malaysia, Philip Morris International [NYSE: PM]

Chinmay Sharma, Director People & Culture – Malaysia, Philip Morris International [NYSE: PM]

The current reality of HR is that of the function routinely being pulled into operational issues and distracted from its core mission. Many recent researches invariably shows that typical HR function still spends more than 60 percent of their resources on transactional activities, despite relentless push in past years towards outsourcing or shared services models. As an ever evolving and now transforming function, HR is getting this push enabled by technology through: ongoing process improvement through new age automation, leveraging Big Data and focus on employee experience.

Ongoing Improvement through New Age Automation

There are several ways to make HR operations more efficient—including finding further things that individuals and managers can do more easily themselves—notably by providing direct access to information or transactions online, introducing simpler processes, and ensuring clearer decision making. It’s also worth considering more geographically diverse sourcing of work and talent instead being driven by the geography where the company offices are located especially to some low cost but high value tech firms in developing countries. Here, technology can help bridge the physical distance woes in a geographically spread organization.

New automation technologies are reshaping a number of HR processes, building on core HR platforms (or cloud-based systems). Robotic process automation (RPA), smart work flows, cognitive agents, and natural-language processing, for example, will automate HR tasks previously carried out by people. In case of employee-onboarding, different HR people need to complete numerous manual steps such as employee related paperwork and scheduling orientation, IT tools, facilities, and security —it can take weeks. RPA can solve the problem with a bot that can access multiple systems, follow an intelligent work flow, and initiate communications to everyone involved. Onboarding time, can be reduced with many errors created by manual tasks getting eliminated, and the overall journey can become more compelling for the individual.

Another new frontier of technology is cognitive agents, especially when paired with natural-language processing. The former has developed to the point where in many cases employees or candidates can’t tell that they’re interacting with a piece of software. Natural-language processing may not yet offer seamless unstructured voice conversations, but many organizations already leverage chat as a communication channel to answer most questions. Technology is constantly learning from past interactions to humanize these interactions as much as possible. Recently, Volvo’s screening interview using AI generated more buzz during Brussels auto show than the displayed fancy vehicles there!

"New automation technologies are reshaping a number of HR processes, building on core HR platforms (or cloud-based systems)"

Leveraging Big Data

Big Data is a relatively new term that has been circulating in the HR space in the recent years. In essence, the amount of data that is available to HR professionals is exponentially increasing every year. This wealth of data creates huge opportunity for HR to analyze these data and use it to boost business performance. One way HR can leverage Big Data is to understand their existing customers and reach out and communicate to prospective customers. With the advantage of artificial intelligence and big data, HR managers can gain a deep insight on the organization, thus, aiding in critical decision making. Analysis of Big Data can also help to identify insights and emerging trends in the current workforce and help to create data driven decisions around recruitment, compensation and benefits, talent management, employee development and succession planning. Organizations like IBM has started to use insights gathered from employees to overhaul its performance review system. Another Australian based computer vision tech company, Seeing Machines, developed a solution that tracks driver’s eyes in order to detect fatigue to improve workplace safety.

Having said that, tapping into Big Data comes with a host of its own challenges as well. When navigating the new world of big data, it requires the ability to seek, extract and analyze relevant data that can in turn help generate insight to support business decisions. It is also crucial that we ensure the data that we seek are in compliance with local and international PDPA laws.

Focus on employee experience

Operational effectiveness is a critical part of employee satisfaction with HR. But whether it’s understanding the consumer journey in marketing or understanding user needs to drive digital user experience, HR has a great deal to catch up on this front when compared to other business functions. This is going to be a big challenge as the fundamental premise of HR policies was about providing consistent or equal employment experience. While the principle remains same, the execution has changed and it’s more about providing customized employee experience. For example, the employee benefits have become more flexible with employee having a greater say in what he/ she wants and values. This cannot be delivered unless the employee experience is fully mapped and relevant digital tools are implemented across the journey to achieve a higher NPS (net promoter score) from employees. The focus on employee experience and NPS opens up a big space for digital intervention in HR. In order for this to materialize, HR needs to be equipped with customer-centric mindset and be prepared to ‘unlearn’ what they have learnt about traditional HR management. HR needs to design experiences that will help employees simplify their work lives which in turn increases engagement at work. It is done by developing a deep empathy towards employees, generating ideas and prototyping different solutions to address their needs eventually creating solutions that are user-friendly, engaging, desirable and easy to use.

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