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The role of AI in HR: Empowering the modern workforce through tech

11.09.20 Written by Futr

Tech-savvy HR departments are reaping the rewards of digital transformation, with technologies like artificial intelligence and natural language processing transforming HR functions. But what exactly is the role of AI in HR, and how can you catch up with industry leaders?

This post was updated in September 2021

Industry 4.0 technologies are upon us, and artificial intelligence (AI) is leading the way, disrupting traditional business models and transforming entire organisations. The market for AI, which includes software, hardware and AI-enabled services, is expanding rapidly, with an International Data Corporation (IDC) report projecting its value to reach the $500 billion mark by 2024.

Unsurprisingly, human resources (HR) departments and professionals have also been affected by AI technology, which has transformed everything from talent acquisition and the onboarding process to everyday administrative tasks.

More importantly, AI is also helping HR professionals and teams improve the employee experience.

What does artificial intelligence mean for human resource leaders?

Today, cloud-based HR suites reign supreme.
According to The Global HR Software Market report by Verified Market Research, the market for HR software is expected to grow from $15.59 billion in 2020 to $3.58 billion by 2028. This remarkable growth comes alongside the rise of cloud deployments and increased automation of “low-value tasks” or repetitive tasks by software as a service (SaaS) solutions.

Related reading: 5 ways AI is redefining the HR space

Indeed, many SaaS platforms have filled the gaps that bigger vendors have been too slow to fill. However, these services are far from perfect.

While disruptive by their very nature, many of these new HR platforms have focused on making traditional HR tech more scalable and easier to use. The reality, especially with the “new normal” we’re getting used to, is that the goalposts have shifted.

Instead of just a slicker web interface, employees demand that HR leaders provide technology and services that align with how they work and communicate. This, in turn, has placed pressure on employers to find ways not just to deliver a better software experience but also to provide tangible improvements in employee happiness, well-being and engagement. 

This has led to terms like AI, machine learning and even NLP entering the boardroom vernacular. But harnessing these technologies to solve today’s problems at scale still feels like a quantum leap for many.

AI in human resources — what’s changed?

AI-led solutions have opened the door for disruptive start-ups to create new categories of HR tech solutions to empower all parts of the workforce, including those previously left behind, such as non-desk employees.

For instance, Unmind, a workplace mental health platform, is designed to help HR professionals put their finger on the pulse of their employees’ mood and overall well-being. The platform uses short, interactive courses to measure employee sentiment and satisfaction; workers are then directed to tools and audiovisual content to assist with problems such as lack of focus and poor sleep.

Graph mental wellbeing
Image Source: Unmind

Platforms like Unmind are proof that HR tech need not be rooted in traditional HR problems like attendance, scheduling interviews and hiring.

Meanwhile, advancements in natural language processing (NLP) — a branch of artificial intelligence — have also transformed how employees access company information and services they need every day, whether it’s to file annual leave or avail of employee benefits. 

The success of any organisation is predicated on how effectively it combines people, processes and technology intelligently. The onus is on HR leaders, not just chief information offices, to drive technological change across their organisations — freeing them to focus on their strategic responsibilities.

What this means in practice — an introduction to Conversational AI

NLP is one of the primary components of conversational AI, which refers to the use of messaging apps, speech-based assistants and chatbots to provide automated human-like conversations between computers and humans.

In the context of HR, conversational AI allows employees to request information from their HR department and access their employee profile through chat or by asking Alexa or a Google Search. For example, an employee can simply “talk” to a chatbot on your social media pages to follow up on the status of their leave request in real time.

Related reading: Chatbot terminology guide for newcomers: 12 terms you should know

Accessing the right information at the right time has never been more important amid the acceleration of remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift has caught many companies off-guard; in fact, over 50% of HR leaders in 2019 said they struggled to ensure their employees had the necessary skills to operate in an increasingly digital workspace.

Bringing conversational AI to the forefront of talent acquisition

Employees begin their journey with an organisation the moment they engage with it through the recruitment process. From the get-go, HR leaders must equip their teams and prospective employees with the information they need.

According to Forbes, “recruiters spend on average 13 hours per week sourcing candidates for one role”, leading to a finite amount of applications they can feasibly review and qualify.

Enter hiring chatbots like MC, Marriott’s digital Career Concierge that not only provides information about Marriott’s job openings across the hotel chain’s 6,200+ locations but also educates job seekers about Marriott’s culture, values and history.

After the initial hiring stage, you can also embed AI solutions into your employee onboarding programme, so even before their first day of employment, conversational AI chatbots can enable prospective employees to:

  • Ask any questions they may have before joining
  • Complete necessary compliance and onboarding forms
  • Learn more about the organisation
  • Find out who they’re meeting on their induction week.

Are workplace chatbots worth the investment?

In 2018, Ernst & Young (EY) rolled out “Goldie“, a cognitive chatbot designed to engage the firm’s 250,000+ employees. The chatbot was able to answer over 500,000 questions in just 28 days, reducing calls volumes and enabling EY’s HR teams to focus on the more complex needs of EY professionals around the world. EY claims to have achieved its ROI in just seven days.

At the time, the investment to build and implement a bot of such capabilities would have been cost-prohibitive to most organisations. Not only that, the technology was still clunky; NLP models misfired and developing internal chatbots still required months of costly consultancy and training of machine learning models to understand user intent.

Today, however, agile and disruptive tech companies have invested heavily in R&D to build cheap and quick-to-deploy conversational AI platforms that cross-cut verticals and industries. This allows HR leaders to deploy AI at scale across their organisation literally in days as opposed to months.

Here at Futr, we have built and trained our artificial intelligence models on a bank of over 5 thousand frequently asked questions by HR teams. We can digest company-specific policies that employees wish to query conversationally and do it at a pace that makes deployment feasible for your company’s HR department.

Use artificial intelligence to adapt to a new generation of workers

It’s predicted that by the end of 2021, the global workforce will be dominated by millennials (35%) and generation X (35%), with baby boomers only making up 6%. As the workforce demographics shift, so too will people’s expectations as professionals.

For instance, Gen Z and millennial workers have spent their lives immersed in an on-demand digital world. This cohort of individuals is accustomed to finding information when they need it, rather than having it forced on them at all times. 

Conversational AI allows HR teams to enable their employees to self-serve answers to their questions anytime, anywhere. And in the case of some conversational AI platforms, chatbots can even help HR teams engage employees in the language of their choice.

Employees no longer have to raise a ticket with HR and wait for a response. They simply need to use a chat widget or messaging app like Teams, Slack or even WhatsApp to access the information they need instantly.

AI is the future of HR

AI-based HR applications not only improve efficiency in HR departments but also provide new and deeper insights into what your employees care about. Rich bot usage data and analytics empower HR leaders to better understand their employees, check the pulse of their organisation and take corrective action ahead of time.

Follow the Futr blog for more insights on how our AI-powered platform is driving value at scale across government and leading enterprises. Get in touch with the Futr team to discuss innovative solutions to engage your customers and empower your live agents. 

  • Published 11.09.20
  • By Futr
  • In Features
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