“The future belongs to those, who know where they belong” is a catchy dialogue from the movie Divergent. This simple one-liner remained with me, well after I alighted from the Los Angeles – Abu-Dhabi flight, during which I saw this movie. I mulled over it, and found it to be fairly profound and applicable in today’s world.
It quite lays down the paradigm that shall govern the trajectory in the next decade or so. With the ‘Digital Tsunami’ well and truly on its way, almost every aspect of our lives will be impacted in a disruptive manner. It, therefore, becomes imperative, for People Leaders, to really know the nuances of the era they belong to, and strike a balance between Technology (Hi-Tech) and People (Hi-Touch).
John Naisbitt, in his seminal book, “Megatrends” (1982) has written that the more “high tech” humans have, more “high touch” humans want. That pretty much nails the import and the narrative, for the professional leaders spearheading transformation. What better function than HR which is at the vortex of this dilemma?
The Digital Transformation of the HR function in the wake of AI, Machine Learning, Bots, Blockchain and other technologies based on Big Data and Analytics poses humungous challenges. While on one hand the HR has to implement technologies, on the other hand, it has to address the corresponding culture-risk which, in turn, can become a prime example of ‘law of marginal returns’. Let us look at how tech implementation pans out in the following HR functions:
Talent Magnetism paradox
The ability to predict is widely desired and is linked to talent acquisition. Prediction is the second most widely preferred AI feature because it is a major component of HCM professionals’ jobs. It is critical that they are able to predict variety of factors, such as: Which job candidates will make the best hires? Which employees are most likely to leave the organization? What kind of compensation packages are most likely to lead to employee retention? What the need and availability will be for employees with certain skill sets? Which benefit packages are most likely to appeal to employees?
The one domain worth focusing on is talent acquisition. Talent acquisition was the third most widely cited area where AI has the opportunity to improve the HR function. Even more interesting, 59% of AI-knowledgeable respondents chose talent acquisition, making it the second most widely chosen item among that cohort. Successful talent acquisition largely hinges on predictive ability. AI-based algorithms can be used to scan work samples, resumes and other materials and then predict which ones are most likely to lead to good hires. Moreover, AI can potentially be used to analyze and predict, based on a range of other types of data, from online candidate profiles to word choices and even facial expressions.
Hi-Touch: With the millennial workforce, it will be imperative to treat the talent as a customer. This implies absolute humility, openness, and visible equitability in hiring and onboarding. There is a plethora of research and articles to show that the ‘millennial’ generation would demand professional and respectful ‘treatment’ from the employers. Customer-centricity with respect to talent acquisition will ensure talent magnetism – a key factor.
Talent Management dynamics
Talent Analytics forms the core of Talent Management, and the ability to analyze is the most widely preferred AI feature by the HCM professionals. This is mainly on account of: (a) artificial intelligence, especially in the area of machine learning, is analytical in nature and based on computers’ ability to “crunch numbers” much more quickly than any human being can; and (b) AI-based analytics tools have been many of the first AI products adopted by HR. When asked as to which features they would most like to see in an AI-powered HR application, the findings suggest that 78 percent state in the ability to analyze, followed by the ability to predict (63 percent), and the ability to personalize (57 percent).
(Source: HR.com/ The State of Artificial Intelligence in HR)
As per similar studies in HR, the tools designed to help HR leaders understand and predict the impact of talent decisions were among the first to hit the market and now help forecast employee flight risk, identify high-potential employees, unearth engagement issues, recommend learning courses and more. In other words, AI-based HR analytics can be applied across a wide range of HR functions.
Hi-Touch: Creating an 'arresting ecosystem’, a lethal blend of equitable compensation, knowledge investment under the umbrella of "evidence-based talent management" will be imperative for a visible growth progression.
Business Transformation & Culture Sustainability – Balancing act between Planet, Profit, and People
In the same survey as mentioned above, when asked about the areas where AI has the greatest potential to improve the HR function in the next five years, it was found that 79 percent stated that the impact would be on analytics and metrics, time and attendance (56 percent) and talent acquisition (54 percent).
Hi-Touch: To ensure sustainability of the above three, it is crucial to have it all embedded in the DNA of the organization. This calls for culture diagnostics so that it cascades down uniformly & consistently, across SBUs, Horizontals, Verticals & Geos. Having built the robust ecosystem, it is imperative that the science of Change-Management needs to be applied with its entire granularity, to ensure that the talent strategy is executed with ruthless precision.
Based on the strategic and transformational interventions, which I have spearheaded in some of the marquee, global organizations, the above-mentioned, form the fulcrum of future-focused HCM pivot. Today's disruptive, digital economy presents an excellent opportunity, for the HCM function professionals, to showcase themselves as the ‘quintessential differentiators’, in catapulting organizations into the next higher orbit of business excellence. In the years to come, that will be the ‘VECTOR’, organizations will have to navigate though.
Moot Question: Is the human side of HR still relevant in today’s digital-driven world?
Well, how can one build and sustain a positive organization, if the human side, is neglected, under the pretext of Digital HCM, Bots, Machine-augmentation et al? If anything the digital-driven world do, it should enable the employees to live a fulfilling life at the workplace, leading to satisfied personal life too.
Neutralizing TRUST-DEFICIT – the most visible manifestation of HI-TOUCH Culture
Just as in business the customers want to do business with people they know and TRUST, so is it in the case of employees. They want to work for Organizations they can TRUST – for its fairness and transparency, capability building, career progression, nurturing ethos, and most importantly in creating a sizzling, positive culture. Notwithstanding HI-TECH ambience and implementation, the periodic face-to-face contact strengthens the trust level – which is quintessential for sustainability.
In conclusion, if the organizations would like to be on CLOUD (the Hi-Tech), they will have to ensure that their people are on ‘CLOUD-9’ (the Hi-Touch).