Technology is supposed to help us work smarter, not harder. While many in the U.S. report working 50 to 60 hours a week, they are shunning the traditional eight-hour workday and other outdated practices that destroy work/life balance and are no longer effective in the new world of work.
When Cecile Alper Leroux of Ultimate Software spoke during a panel discussion called Women Leaders in HR Technology at the Human Resources Executive Online 20th Annual Conference & Exposition, she said that she once had a manager who expected employees to work eight hours on Sunday. Leroux pushed back. She told her boss that she had already finished her work and wanted to spend time with her kids.
And then she said this: “A badge of honor should be given to the person who works the smartest – not the longest hours.” The audience erupted in applause.
And that’s what this year’s conference was all about – the latest technology that is helping people and organizations to work smarter.
The trends presented at this year’s conference, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), were presented not as job killers but as job helpers. As Ben Willis of Saba Software stated in this HR Technology Q & A, "The advancements we’re seeing today with AI in HR technology are about making people’s lives easier."
Where HR professionals are concerned, this means removing the burdensome administrative tasks often associated with much of their work – especially in talent acquisition.
New technology will allow HR to focus less on administrative tasks and more on strategy.
Due to a lack of understanding about its benefits, many in HR and other professions continue to be leery of AI. They see it as automation that will eventually take their jobs.
However, the tech experts at this conference all agreed that’s not the case. While automation may replace some jobs, new advancements in how we use AI and ML will spur the creation of new jobs – jobs that no one has even heard of yet.
AI will empower people, not replace them
At the session Looking Ahead: Where Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning May Take the Next Generation of HR, led by Constellation Research VP and Principal Analyst Holger Mueller, a panel of AI experts discussed the future of AI in the workplace.
All the panelists agreed that AI and ML are going to transform the workplace by helping people make better decisions.
New jobs will exist where human and machine work together to do new things. AI and ML will be the tools that empower people and keep them engaged.
These technologies will change the way talent is acquired and managed – from hiring to performance to promotion. And this is good news for HR.
AI and ML will understand not only the habits and preferences of individual employees but also those of teams, groups and networks.
The systems will make recommendations for employee logistics to include physical office design and seating, onsite and offsite interaction and meetings, and when and where employees "badge in." Notification interfaces will replace navigation menus. Systems will push out the right information and notifications to employees at the right time.
AI will also allow HR professionals to be better business partners by delivering the critical data and analysis that matters most to senior leaders.
AI for retention
In the future, AI insight into people will affect every decision about your employees' professional development and job mobility.
Many organizations are now using AI to reward employees and increase retention by helping them find internal opportunities. These systems find job openings that most closely match an employee’s skills and experience and then send alerts.
How others are using AI
Each of Mueller’s panelists cited an example of how they are currently using AI to help employees.
Jack Berkowitz, VP of products and data science for Oracle, said the organization’s AI system adapts to each employee. It changes with the employee and reacts over time to habits and preferences. This customization positively impacts employee well-being at Oracle.
Ultimate Software’s Senior Director and Principal Data Scientist Moritz Sudhof identified a case where the organization used AI to help a company in the midst of a reorganization. “The system gathered data that informed managers on how employees were feeling about the change, which helped to more smoothly guide the process,” he said.
IBM’s VP/CIO, Business Process Services, Pat Reynolds said the company is using its AI platform “Watson” as a coach. Watson helps employees at IBM find mentors, professional development opportunities and job openings.
Don’t be a late adopter
The key to taking full advantage of these new technologies is to get started as soon as possible. AI and ML aren’t fads that will eventually fade, so taking a wait-and-see approach will only diminish your competitive advantage as an employer.
HR and IT can partner to make the business case for the implementation of these technologies and then create a plan to get started. The most important thing is to start now – even if in a small way – because your competitors are already there.
Do some experimentation and introduce AI to your workforce in bite-size pieces. The end-user and the employee experience are the most important considerations as you design the system, so be sure to include employees in the process.
Additionally, employees need to understand why you’re implementing AI and how it will help them. When planning internal communications, be sure to stress that AI will expand employees’ capabilities – not replace workers.
Additionally, organizations will need to continue to measure the adoption rates well after implementation. Which managers and departments use the technology? Which don’t? Find out why. Look for trends in usage, and then refine the technology – and the training.
A rise in data breaches and lack of trust in how data is used has caused a reluctance to share information. This hesitancy has the potential to hamstring AI in recruitment and other areas of HR, so be sure to address security as well.
As technology continues to advance and improve processes across the workplace, in every industry, the possibilities for the future of work are endless.
How will you make it work for you?