Article: HR in the world of AI, algorithms and big data

#TechHR'17

HR in the world of AI, algorithms and big data

Day 1 of the People Matters TechHR 2017 Conference saw the first keynote delivery by Brian Sommer, who spoke about the digital exhaust people have created with Cloud, mobile and social technologies that has been the feedstock for much of the HR technology changes. But another wave of change is underway and its impact on work (not just HR) will be highly transformative

The last big wave of technology change involved a slew of social, mobile and cloud capabilities that altered a number of HR processes. Mobile technologies caused all manners of recruiting, interviewing, travel expense reporting, time tracking and more to change. Employees and job seekers no longer wanted to be tethered to old-fashioned desktop computers. Smartphones and tablets were now the preferred methods of contact.

Social technology triggered big changes, too. LinkedIn, personal web pages and Facebook became go-to locations for recruiters to find passive job seekers. Web spiders and massive in-memory database technology could now do in milliseconds what old-fashioned recruiters needed weeks to complete.  

The digital exhaust people created with cloud, mobile and social technologies has been the feedstock for much of the HR technology changes the last ten years. Cloud was the transport mechanism for all of this data and much of the data ended up in big data stores. 

Going Forward

Don’t forget that the information job seekers use is ‘not’ in your ATS, ERP or recruiting software — it’s in social media and other ‘external’ sites.  Does your HR department have someone monitoring your constantly evolving recruiting brand and the content others see?

Now the innovation is leaping forward again.

The Next Wave

Another wave of change is underway and its impact on work, and not just HR, will be highly transformative. Here’s a preview of what’s coming:

  • People will work for technologies, not other people: Smart algorithms (powered by insights from Big Data) will predict imminent failure of home appliances, capital machine tools, automobiles, etc. Not only will the failures be predicted but the software will pre-emptively order replacement parts and schedule preventative maintenance. Workers will be dispatched by software, told what to replace/repair and sent along to the next repair — all without any human contact. This new reality is already happening in numerous firms, from railroads to caulk manufacturers. For HR departments: who prepares the performance evaluation when a worker never interacts with other human beings?

  • The age of pre-crimes is now upon us: New technologies can ascertain whether certain corruption, bribery or other potential malfeasance is about to be undertaken by an employee. New big data and in-memory technology allow companies to scan vast amounts of non-structured data (e.g., emails, texts, scanned invoices, etc.) and search for critical clues to unwanted and potentially illegal activities (e.g., look for invoices referencing “facilitation fee”).  Don’t think this is possible? Accounting firm EY already has such a tool.

  • Artificial Intelligence will trigger a radical redesign of Recruiting: AI tools, when used in conjunction with video interviewing, will help recruiters sort through candidates and place the best choices at the top of the list. But, this time, AI will be examining 25,000 data points captured in as little as five minutes of video interview time. This intelligent assessment of candidates can spot things like the person’s use of their creative parts of the brain, whether they really know the subject matter, the intelligence of the candidate (via their vocabulary), etc. If you don’t think this is possible, check out HireVue. 

  • Say goodbye to campus recruiting: The video interview is killing the old campus recruiting process. Today’s ubiquity of video-enabled smartphones and tablets means anyone can do a video interview anywhere today. Employers are finding that they can dramatically reduce time lost to interviewing, travel to campuses, etc. Companies are finding video interviewing to be greener and also saving the expenditure of carbon based fuels for travel to campuses. One major consultancy has already seen massive time and cost savings and a huge global bank has eliminated campus interviews altogether. Have you re-engineered your campus recruiting process yet?

  • The routine is gone: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a smart AI/Machine Learning technology that learns how a worker does a repetitive task. Think of this as the next wave of automotive welding robots being applied to back office functions (e.g., accounts payable invoice vouching). In one Accounts Payable shared services center, RPA has replaced the work of 482 out of 500 total workers. Clerical jobs are being impacted but so too will other activities in short order (e.g., many of the month-end accounting close activities may be good candidates for RPA).  If the workers disappear, will HR manage the RPA logic or IT?

  • Job seekers have more power now: Job seekers have access to massive online data stores. They know your firm’s interview questions (even the bad ones!) and they share great answers with one another. They can see reviews of an employer, its leaders, and its promotion rates. All of this data that can be served to smartphones brings a lot of transparency. It means employers must aggressively manage their product, corporate and employment brand. Don’t forget that the information job seekers use is NOT in your ATS, ERP or recruiting software – it’s in social media and other EXTERNAL sites.  Does your HR department have someone monitoring your constantly evolving recruiting brand and the content others see?

  • With great information/power comes great responsibility: The opportunity to use machine learning, natural language, algorithms, etc. is tempting. But, too many HR organizations are still staffed and operate like they did a decade or more ago. Does your HR organization possess personnel with the deep understanding of statistics, social sciences, psychology and other disciplines that will permit the correct (and legal) deployment of new technologies?

Don’t forget that the information job seekers use is ‘not’ in your ATS, ERP or recruiting software — it’s in social media and other ‘external’ sites.  Does your HR department have someone monitoring your constantly evolving recruiting brand and the content others see?

Going Forward

HR groups will need new skills: that’s a given. But what else should HR do? Here’s a starter list:

  • Get cosmopolitan: The best way to deal with the future is to get in front of it. Exposure to new technologies must be a core competency of HR leaders. HR leaders should attend specialized HR technology events where cutting edge, new solutions are demonstrated. Seek first to understand the future before planning it.

  • Develop a team(s) tasked with a RADICAL reinvention of HR and other processes: Don’t wait for technology vendors to show up with a pre-built new set of processes and work procedures. If you do, it will put your company way behind the competition. Smart firms are looking at how they can derive serious strategic advantage from these new technologies. If you snooze, you lose.

  • Create sunset plans for all of your old HR technology, skills, and processes: Everything and everyone has a “best when used by date” but some firms seem to enshrine old business methods, technologies, etc.  When you know (and publish) the expiration date of all things HR, people can get focused on what will need to happen. Nostalgia and inertia are not strategies. Get a plan and plan to take advantage of the future (before competitors take advantage of you). 

Topics: TechHR 2017, HR Technology

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