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AI and The Future of Working

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Artificial Intelligence is on the verge of penetrating every major industry from healthcare to advertising, transportation, finance, legal, education, and now inside the workplace. Many of us may have already interacted with a chatbot (defined as an automated, yet personalized, conversation between software and human users) whether it’s on Facebook Messenger to book a hotel room or ordering flowers through 1-800 flowers. According to Facebook Vice President, David Marcus, there are now more than 100,000 chatbots on the Facebook Messenger platform, up from 33,000 in 2016.

As we increase the usage of chatbots in our personal lives, we will expect to use them in the workplace to assist us with things like finding new jobs, answering frequently asked HR related questions or even receiving coaching and mentoring.  Chatbots digitize HR processes and enable employees to access HR solutions from anywhere. Using artificial intelligence in HR will create a more seamless employee experience, one that is nimbler and more user driven.

Artificial Intelligence Will Transform The Employee Experience

As I detailed in my column, The Intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Human Resources, HR leaders are beginning to pilot AI to deliver greater value to the organization by using chatbots for recruiting, employee service, employee development and coaching. A recent survey of 350 HR leaders conducted by ServiceNow finds 92% of HR leaders agree that the future of providing an enhanced level of employee service will include chatbots.

In fact, you can think of a chatbot as your newest HR team member, one that allows employees to easily retrieve answers to frequently asked questions. According to the ServiceNow survey, more than two thirds of HR leaders believe employees are comfortable accessing chatbots to get the information they need, at the time they need it. The type of questions HR leaders believe employees are comfortable using a chatbot for range from the mundane and factual ones; such as how much paid time off do I have left, to the more personal ones; such as how do I report a sexual misconduct experience. The comfort level with using AI to answer employee inquiries is shown in Figure 1:

Future Workplace

According to Deepak Bharadwaj, General Manager, HR Product Line, ServiceNow “By 2020, based on the adoption of chatbots in our personal lives, I can see how penetration in the workplace could reach adoption rates of as high as 75% with employees accessing a chatbot to resolve frequently asked HR questions and access HR solutions anywhere and anytime.” Bharadwaj points out how fast we are changing our behavior as consumers, given the dramatic rise of conversational AI technology and its ease of use. For example, Amazon’s Alexa now has more than 15,000 “skills” (Amazon’s term for voice-based apps), nearly all of which were created in the last two years since Amazon opened Alexa to outside developers. In fact, 10,000 Alexa skills were created since fourth quarter, 2016.

Artificial intelligence and chatbots are revolutionizing both the candidate and employee experience. As Diana Wong, Senior Vice President of HR at Capital Group says,”Technology is an enabler to delivering world-class Advisor and Investor experiences to our customers. So, we believe HR must mirror these best in class experiences by leveraging artificial intelligence for all phases of the employee life cycle from recruiting to on-boarding and developing employees.”

Capital Group is piloting a number of artificial intelligence technologies in HR, from using Textio to write more effective and bias free job descriptions to using predictive analytic web based video interviewing through the MontageTalent platform. Wong believes the piloting and usage of artificial intelligence not only improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the candidate and employee experience, but also enables Capital Group to be seen as a modern employer with Millennial workers.

However, there are barriers along the journey as HR experiments with artificial intelligence. I recently spoke about the impact of artificial intelligence to a group of senior HR leaders in Milan last week. This group identified a number of barriers to using artificial intelligence in HR, namely the fear of job loss among HR team members, lack of skills to truly embrace these new technologies and the change management needed to adopt to new ways of sourcing, recruiting, and engaging employees.

Wong emphasizes this when she says, “One of the critical success factors to adopting artificial intelligence for HR is the cultural orientation around change and on-going employee communications on how and why the organization is digitally transforming HR.”

Delivering a compelling employee experience is a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent. Companies are realizing that transforming employee experience is not an HR initiative, rather it is a business initiative. This means senior C-level executives from HR, IT, Digital Transformation, Real Estate, and Corporate Communications need to develop one common shared vision on what a memorable and compelling employee experience is and define the elements of the employee experience over the short, medium, and long term.

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