Talent Analytics and Artificial Intelligence: Future Enablers for HR

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The Human Resources (HR) function is undergoing one of the most disruptive periods it has seen till now. Scholars opine that ”Digital Tsunami” is the disruption caused by a paradigm shift in the technology space, especially in Human resources (HR) function. Rapid transformations due to new technological advances in Artificial Intelligence, analytics, automation, behavioural economics have made the already hyper-connected world ‘boundary less’.

Technology has permeated into all aspects of our professional and personal lives. Making a drastic transition from the administrative and traditional support activities of HR, offering apps to provide better workplace experience, technology is making the role of HR more strategic; helping us take evidence-based decisions. Evidence-based management assumes usage of deeper, better logic and employing facts rather than assumptions or guesses leading to better decisions.

With the coming in of millennials and changing demographics, it is pertinent for HR professionals to create an experience by breaking out of the box and think innovatively with the help of technology enablers to design customised people interventions.

As per Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016, Digital HR is one of the top 10 human capital trends this year. To counter the challenges of today’s VUCA world, the leaders will have to embrace innovative, technologically advanced and disruptive ways of engaging with people, keeping the employee experience and empathy at the core.

I believe the most important point to consider before adopting new technology is contextualising it for our workplace. The technological advancement might backfire if it does not resonate with the culture of an organisation and applied without recognising the business context. We can adopt technology to make work and workplace more meaningful for our people in following ways:

  • Employee lifecycle management: Simplify the processes, cut down unnecessary layers and enhance the experience. Remove the complexity by putting people first and revolutionise the employee experience by designing simple and innovative ways of delivering HR services.
  • Mobile Apps: Everyone wants to access things ‘on the go’ now, then why not mails, apps, portals, even job applications. You name it, and there are service providers out there supporting everything on your smartphone – integrated HR platform, cloud-based human resources information system, wellness and fitness apps for optimal work-life balance. It is high time to focus on “Mobile First” strategy! Today’s empowered workforce requirement of purpose, flexibility and creativity have led to a sudden spurt in pulse based survey and feedback systems. Such systems do not only support mobile surveys but can also algorithmically decide the target respondents. Everything has become instant with technology, why not recognition then. Positive reinforcement is like credits done in an account. A simple ‘Pat on the back’ or a congratulatory mail or social media can do it in a flash. Technology has also revamped the universe of learning. We can see the drift away from traditional instructor-led training programs to more on-the-job learning and self-driven customised interventions. Virtual reality is the need of the hour.
  • Talent Analytics: Big data analytics is catching up exponentially with HR professionals. Recruitment channel analytics, Corporate culture analytics, Leadership analytics, Capability Analytics, Competency acquisition analytics, Capacity analytics, Employee performance analytics and Employee Churn analytics will help us take more objective decisions and better plans for future hiring needs and employee engagement. In this ‘War for talent’, new platforms of getting diverse workforce, be it freelancers (platforms like UpWork Gigwalk), contract employees, can help us in getting an upper edge, by breaking the chalice of traditional sourcing channels. These analytics tools support HR with trends and profiles which could help us focus on better policies and processes, be it recruitment or engagement.
  • Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & Natural Language processing: This is the fastest-growing area, which covers products that can listen to voices, comprehend and take appropriate actions. AI has enabled a total re-engineering of employee experience, making it more personalised. Data-driven HR has started leveraging machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to demonstrate significant improvement in the quality and speed of recruitment through the use of remote video interviewing modes and chatbots interviewers for screening, to list a few. Social Recruiting has already gained ground in reinventing the process of talent acquisition, which would involve engagement of talent on easily accessible portals on the go, automation, and gamification. Career websites and static organisation pages will pave the way for talent communities for talent engagement and two-way communication. These trends along with the use of predictive analytics and other tools like NLP and ML for analysing contextually relevant information from both structured and unstructured data, online skills testing will lay the foundation for objective talent screening in future. NLP has been able to drive the business outcomes for organisations, be it Google’s algorithm of search, Facebook’s deep text for enhancing chat experience, analysis of data by e-commerce organisations for an understanding of consumer behaviour. Future will see humans and machines collaborating with each other through predictive modelling, analytics, and artificial intelligence. The challenge would be to design work of our people to optimize this phase, than resist.

Chatbots is the emerging trend in this era. Jinie (India’s first HR chatbot), Siri, Google assistant Allo, Lakshmi (First on-site bank helper) and IBM’s Watson have already started their journey with us, making our life and work easier. Use of natural language processing techniques and machine learning is making these assistants more interactive and smart.

The whole technological experience has empowered HR more than ever. Having said that, while chatbots and machine learning are bringing in the new wave, there is also the world still caught in time. A survey conducted by SHRM and Career Builder shows that around 40 per cent of organisations still use ‘MS Excel’ as a primary tool to manage recruitments and MIS. It is just a matter of time; this Digital Tsunami will engulf everyone in, be it small or medium enterprise, local or global organisation. The best part is that it has something to offer for everyone, offering flexibility on investment of money, time and effort.

Amit Das
Director-HR & CHRO,
Bennett Coleman Co Ltd ( Times of India group )