Much of the mundane work in HRD is now AI assisted.
Even though AI in offices has always been associated with return on investment with respect to time and cost savings, productivity and efficiency, it is now making waves in the Human Resource operations of businesses.
Making use of automation in mundane tasks, cognitive engagement and eventually data backed decisions are going to be the cornerstone of AI contribution to HR in the offices of the future.
Robotics Process Automation
Organisations are increasingly making use of the Robotics Process Automation (RPA) — essentially the use of “software bots” that are configured to automate operational tasks, which are mainly manual and repetitive in nature. Various functions like payroll management, data entry, offer letter generation and offboarding tasks can be automated to a large extent.
This allows the HR department to do away with the manual mundane tasks and invest its efforts in driving more strategic aspects of the business. Even though it seems contradictory, robotics is bound to help bring back the human element of engagement to HR by leaving them with the time to personally engage with people while tasks are outsourced to RPAs.
Proliferation of RPA
It is expected that RPA will graduate to two primary areas of progress. One, the adoption of RPA will extend to other areas of employee lifecycle like recruitment, onboarding and every other administrative workflow during transfers, promotions and requisition.
While the foundation of RPA already exists in these modules of HR, we will witness RPA advancing to handle aspects like interview scheduling, candidate communications, offer letter approvals, onboarding and data management through a streamlined workflow process. However, the major advancement and second area of progress in RPA is going to be adopting cognitive and AI technologies.
In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, it has been reported that 42 per cent of the organisations surveyed, have fully implemented or have made significant progress in adopting cognitive and AI technologies within their workforce. (Source: 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report). It is interesting to note that traditionally it was the sales, marketing and operations departments where such investments were made.
Advent of cognitive engagement
Over the years organisations will increasingly start using cognitive engagement, which leverages natural language processing (voice bots) to manage transactions, reporting, trigger requests and will also be extended to support instant feedback. It basically functions as a virtual assistant. An employee can apply for a leave by simply stating that he or she is ill to the bot. Other than this, bots will be able to do more sohphisticated tasks. For example, a manager will be able to retrieve the hiring rate at which he or she is able to build the headcount by just saying “what is the headcount trend in my team”. The same technology will see adoption in the candidate engagement space as well, where bots will intelligently engage with prospective employees through a questionnaire that can probe further based on the answers received as well as respond in a conversational way.
Another area where AI will advance from its current state is the accuracy, speed and extensiveness of parsing. Be it to digitise and capture data from a resume in a format that can be analysed for shortlisting, or to save time in capturing expense claim inputs by simply reading an invoice, the improved efficiency of AI and ML based parsing is going to ease the efforts of digitising information and will help in building data repository for predictive analysis.
Insights and analysis
Widely applied in the space of online marketing to read customer sentiment about a brand, natural language processing (a form of machine learning) will be adopted in HR as well to read and assess culture and sentiment of employees based on the text and voice comments posted in internal social forums or performance review notes. Historically organisational culture and climate have been measured primarily based on survey questionnaires and mood indicators. With AI techniques like NLP capabilities that make it possible to conduct textual analysis at the multiple word level, HR can assess culture and mood based on conversations happening in an organisation at real-time rather than to rely on a survey which may not be answered 100 per cent honestly. As per CareerBuilder Research, “More than 50 per cent of HR Managers say that they see artificial intelligence and automation becoming a regular part of HR in the coming five years.”
Cognitive insights which use statistical data analysis and machine learning will be leveraged by the workforce for making better data-backed decisions. Predictive analytics will also be leveraged to make better informed decisions, which can be rectified with continuous improvement. This is going to help HR as a function in various aspects such as succession planning, talent mapping, evaluating employee engagement levels, analyse data patterns to establish causes of attrition and contribute on a strategic level to fulfilling organisation goals.
While the contribution of AI and robotics is often measured in terms of time and cost savings, it also leads to more productivity, efficiency and most importantly improved outcomes through data-backed decisions. Nevertheless, the human aspects and ethics will always remain the core part of the Human Resource role.