Rashmi Choudhary is a Research Analyst for digital workplace at Gartner. Ms. Choudhary's research is concentrated on areas like digital workplace program, digital workspace helping the organizations to improve employee experience, engagement and innovation. She advises IT Leaders on enterprise strategies to enable more effective ways of working, to increase workforce digital dexterity through engaging and intuitive work environments, and to exploit existing and emerging technologies for better business outcomes. In addition to this, she also helps clients to choose the best ways to create Smart Workspaces in the organization either by Integrated Workplace Management systems (IWMS), Resource Scheduling Applications (RSA) or emerging technologies like IoT and AI in Digital Workspace. Ms.Choudhary also covers remote work programs and advices clients on how to create effective remote work programs and manage remote workers.
In this exclusive interaction with People Matters, Ms. Chaudhary talks about smart digitization for cost-saving efforts, the large-scale impact of digitizing HR processes, and sheds light on the emerging remote work trends to shape talent strategies for the coming year.
How we work and how we live are being fundamentally altered with the pandemic impacting businesses globally. And to thrive in the new normal digital transformation is a must. But isn’t it a huge challenge for many businesses? Can the digital world fill the chasm to thrive in the post-pandemic world?
COVID-19 has forced organizations to reevaluate, redesign and reprioritize in order to manage their response and recovery. There is a huge impact on the way we do work. Remote Work is the new NORM. Organizations that lack structured digital workplace capabilities suffer significant remote work problems, such as inadequate equipment and infrastructure, inaccessible applications and information and ineffective working practices. Hence, digital transformation is a must, and the initial shock of mandatory remote work is now over.
Equipping employees with laptops and SaaS based personal and team productivity calls can help organizations combat the damages caused by this pandemic. For example, employees have had a far easier time making the shift to working from home because they can easily take their work with them, and cloud based collaborative technologies makes transition to remote work easier.
Smart Digitization during this pandemic will drive significant cost-saving efforts, which may align with new workforce strategies.
For example, office hoteling — which can deliver significant cost savings over individual offices — can be aligned with an expansion of work-at-home entitlements. And extending flexible work policies to more workers can promote greater employee engagement and a better employee experience, thereby boosting employee retention and attraction. A robust remote work capability that can be utilized when necessary will now be seen as mandatory for future business continuity plans.
How has the HR tech landscape changed over the last few months? What all trends have you observed around HR tech adoption in HR amid this COVID-19 crisis? Has the adoption seen a spike or did it slow down? Do you have any numbers?
HR technologies have been one of the topmost priorities for organizations to ensure enhanced user experience in new remote and hybrid settings. Gartner expects about 20 - 25% of organizations to be looking to accelerate their HR transformation plans for 2021. There are majorly three trends that we have noticed during this pandemic:
- Trend1: Remote work is on rise
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the remote-working trend, forcing many organizations to move large proportions of their workforces to a remote working model. When global CFOs were surveyed, 74% reported an interest in increasing remote work after the pandemic for cost optimization. Hence, organizations must support their workforce in working remotely.
The rescoping of large transformational human capital management (HCM) projects — mostly replacing older-generation HR information systems and talent management solutions with cloud HCM suites is on trend to support remote workforce with accessible data.
- Trend 2: The Humanization, or Dehumanization, of Workers:
Organizations have been focused on employee well-being, health and safety like never before. Most companies are proactively offering support by changing benefits, increasing flexibility and reducing expectations when employees face simultaneous personal and professional demands.
Companies are now investing in technology solutions that target physical well-being and mental health of employees. While only 39% of organizations currently offer such technology solutions as part of their well-being programs, the rise in remote working and the need to maintain wellness may raise organizations’ conviction to invest in this area. There will also be an increased focus on technology solutions that promote collaboration and a sense of belonging so that remote workers stay connected and engaged.
- Trend 3: Expanded data collections:
Organizations have increased passive tracking of employees as their workforce has become remote. According to a Gartner survey conducted in April, 16% of organizations are passively tracking employees via methods like virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage and monitoring employee emails or internal communications/chat.
Companies need to increase focus on the ethical use of data to alleviate employee anxieties.
HR leaders should weigh-in on the ethics of using employee data, but also on how to utilize employee monitoring to understand employee engagement across an increasingly dispersed workforce.
Can you share some insights on how large organizations are leveraging HR technologies in the areas of AI, people analytics, talent acquisition tech, RPA, and blockchain?
Large organizations leverage emerging technologies like AI, RPA and ML in HR technologies to boost HR process performance by improving operational efficiency, decision quality, and candidate and employee experiences. Several functions such as talent acquisition, workforce scheduling and learning content personalization have shown promising results with the application of artificial intelligence (AI). The most promising use cases for adopting AI-based solutions are in recruiting, skills management, and learning and development (L&D). As the processes in these areas involve a high volume of time-consuming tasks that are still operated by human labor, rely on unstructured data, and involve complex decisions, with AI and other emerging technologies organizations can automate the voluminous task of analyzing huge data that helps HR leaders make informed decisions that were driven primarily by human judgment or intuition and have some degree of bias.
Digitization in HR has done wonders in the recruitment process. Recruiters can leverage AI-based solutions with people analytics to assist in writing job posts and reach more diverse candidates.
They can also leverage AI to engage with candidates and even to augment hiring decision making by analyzing and interpreting candidates’ responses and predicting candidates’ degree of fitment and performance for current vacancies and other potential roles. Digitized HR solutions in recruiting can reduce cost per hire by speeding up time to hire without sacrificing quality of hire or candidate fitment.
AI is also leveraged by some companies to capture skill shifts and build skills at the pace of change for successful organizational performance. This enables HR leaders to determine workforce planning and talent supply requirements more effectively. Many companies also use AI to identify gaps in learning offerings by tracking employees’ learning successes.
Blockchain technology uniquely supports novel HCM use cases. Blockchain in HR is currently more suitable for companies with large contingent workforce population. Overall, the market is niche and complex and focusses on one HCM function, but emergence of consortiums led by some of the large HCM suite vendors, is likely to spur HCM blockchain investment in favor of gathering critical mass.
Organizations can primarily use blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT) with their ecosystem partners for a shared, single version of the truth, based on immutable data and tamper-proof audit trails. This enhances and supports the efficiency, auditability and trustworthiness of existing multiparty business processes, where no one party is in control.
Blockchain’s key revolutionary innovation is that it eliminates all need for trust in any central or “permissioned” authority.
Some of the use cases for blockchain in HCM are talent acquisition where blockchain can be leveraged for background verification of candidates or securing smart contracts with gig economy. Other use cases include workforce management with blockchain-enabled time and attendance recording, payroll administration with Digital escrow and crypto wallet to pay and reward employees without any bank involvement. Blockchain platforms empower end users to control their own data as the blockchain employee data storages protect employee health records or other personal records (i.e., financial wellness or credit score) in encrypted formats. With the advent of remote working and GDPR mandates, there is an increased desire among employees to secure their personal data and take the data when they leave the organization.
According to Gartner’s RPA survey, 28% of organizations currently using RPA have applied it to HR processes. There has been increase in organizations using RPA to automate their HR systems. Most organizations use RPA in HR divisions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations to operate faster and at a lower cost than other automation approaches. Validation and migration processes related to credentials’ allocation, interorganizational moves and travel logistics are common opportunities for RPA in HR to reduce the manual effort required and accelerate completion. Some of the common use cases are assignment management tracking that checks for an input action of a transferred employee to a new location in SAP, changes the respective assignment and marks the transfer in a digital form. Companies are leveraging RPA for onboarding new employees which provides login credentials and access to resources such as documents and databases and also for Expense Report Automation as well as Payroll Adjustments and Validation.
In the last few months, what key areas of the HR function have you seen maximum tech implementations in? What do you think are the reasons for it?
It is too early and difficult to comment about the tech implementations during this pandemic, but there is huge inclination of HR leaders towards certain HR functions.
To support ongoing pandemic responses and prepare for subsequent economic uncertainty, the following technologies have attracted renewed interest like next-gen WFM (including contact tracing), skills ontologies, employee productivity monitoring, learning experience platforms, workforce planning and modeling, and internal talent marketplaces.
Due to surge in remote work, which is expected to grow 48% (remote workforce including hybrid workers) in the coming years as per Gartner, companies will expand their gig worker population to enable more flexibility of workforce management, both for cost savings and to address temporary absences due to illness or caregiving. Hence, there is renewed interest among organizations in next gen WFM platforms which improves time and attendance; scheduling; absence management; and task management for gig workers.
Skills are described as the new currency for talent. They are a foundational element for managing the workforce within any industry. Improved and automated skills detection and assessment allows for significantly greater organizational agility. In times of uncertainty, or when competition is fierce, organizations with better skills data can adapt more quickly by more accurately identifying which opportunities are feasible immediately, and which ones require more investment. They can redeploy workers more quickly when priorities shift. They can also be much more efficient in the distribution of work and the scheduling of workers. This improves productivity and avoids costs through improved planning cycles. Skills ontologies are one of the primary enablers for organizational agility and adaptability in a changing work environment.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have needed to shift many of their employees to remote working very quickly. This has significantly increased the level of interest in employee productivity monitoring technologies. The practice of monitoring employees for the purpose of improving productivity is rife with ethical challenges. It can easily cross the “creepy line” and may create a toxic work culture. It can also make organizations the subject of news articles decrying poor practices. Furthermore, productivity is highly context-specific. Measuring the volume of activities and time spent is frequently a very poor proxy for measuring productivity and impact. Hence organizations need to be careful while deploying these tools and must take proper change management plans and communication strategy.
A growing number of organizations are searching for more open learning platforms that offer better personalization capabilities. As the digital workplace evolves, organizations continue to look to LEPs as a way to aid learner adoption, increase content creation and collaboration, and drive engagement across a variety of stakeholders. Organizations these days focus on healthy learning cultures with a wide range of development opportunities to improve employee engagement, which often translates to stronger business performance.
Workforce planning has become a critical element for navigating the impact of COVID-19 pandemic to match workforce supply for demand. This has helped organizations plan and monitor the evolution of their organization by aligning talent supply and demand to various business scenarios, such as transformation through innovation, growth, rationalization or divestiture.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to projects and challenges that were often unanticipated.
Many organizations need to gather knowledge of their internal skills in new ways. This has led to increased interest in internal talent marketplaces, which can help managers with the redeployment of staff from low-demand to high-demand activities.
Furthermore, these solutions can help organizations tap into existing talent when external hiring is not an option. They also make it easier to reskill and upskill talent when new skills are needed quickly.