The HR cognitive advantage


Posted by Rajesh Attra and Greg Vert July 21, 2017

In our first post on this topic, we addressed the question: Can robots replace HR? While the answer is “not entirely,” there is no doubt this technology represents both a significant disruptor and opportunity for HR. To back it up, our team has spent the last couple months working with early adopter clients and deploying internal Deloitte pilots to better understand the potential of robotics and cognitive solutions within the HR function. Our experience to date indicates there are three primary capabilities where digital options should be considered to supplement and augment the human talent in HR.

These three options are exciting opportunities for HR to take advantage of the power of digital:

  • Automate operational tasks – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software and new functionality delivered by cloud HCM packages deliver the ability to fully automate manual, rules-based, and repetitive activities.
  • Engage with HR customers – Natural language processing makes it possible for cognitive technologies to interact with HR customers to manage transactions, resolve inquiries, and triage requests to human HR professionals when needed.
  • Deliver meaningful insights – Machine learning and (eventually) artificial intelligence are able to mine and analyze data to uncover new relationships and insights to support better decision-making and continuous improvement investments.

In this post, we share a handful of real-life examples of these exciting technologies in action. Please note there are many products available in the marketplace to enable the types of case studies covered below. Organizations should select the right technology based on their specific needs and priorities. Please contact the authors for more information on the vendor landscape.

Automate operational tasks
Health care provider automates license verification as part of talent acquisition process. Applicant licenses are manually validated by referencing various online databases both during initial screening and once an offer was accepted. An electronic copy of the license is then stored in the employee file. A specially designed and deployed “bot” with the ability to automate the verification and storage process increases the timeliness of the verification, reduces the risk of error, and allows recruiters to focus on bringing talent into the organization.

Deloitte uses RPA to deliver scheduled reports. Deloitte deployed RPA software to automate the process of extracting HR data from multiple systems, aggregating and formatting a standard report, and routing the final product to various stakeholders in the Talent organization. The end result automated approximately 80 percent of the process and freed up resources to focus on more important activities, such as developing analytics and insights. Based on the success of the initial pilot, the Talent team is actively evaluating and implementing over a dozen other opportunities internal to Deloitte.

Life Sciences organization automatically triggers offboarding activities. As part of a cloud HCM implementation, the organization implemented new automation functionality delivered by the vendor to trigger offboarding activities when a termination action is initiated. The outcome eliminated a manual step in a high-volume process and created a more productive experience for customers.

Engage with HR customers
Financial services institution uses virtual agent to support customers. This cognitive solution serves as a “Digital HR Advisor” assisting end users with complex position management transactions. The bot became the first point of contact for common inquiries related to position creation and approvals and was configured to observe and learn from humans by storing information from past interactions. If the bot is unable to resolve an inquiry, it is programmed to escalate to a human adviser for support. The end result is the ability to deploy 24/7 on-demand support to customers while reducing the volume of routine inquiries routing to human agents in a service center.

Deliver meaningful insights
The cognitive recruiter helps profile future potential. Cognitive technologies are being deployed to improve the recruitment process by combining artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, predictive analytics, and behavioral engineering. These technologies conduct continuous workforce analytics behind the scenes by building “success profiles” based on top-performing employees and successful applicant characteristics. The success profiles are then used to identify future talent targets to create an optimal sourcing approach and provide insights to hiring managers to improve decision making. The cognitive recruiters are also capable of interacting directly with candidates to collect data, evaluate the quality of interview responses, provide status updates, and deliver strategic brand messaging. The outcome is a better candidate experience supported by more meaningful data.

The “art of the possible” is here. Organizations have yet to fully capitalize on the cognitive automation capable of detecting patterns in data and making predictions, but the technology is available now. Basic forms of artificial intelligence, such as pattern matching and machine learning, can work with existing sources of internal and external data to automate and enable people analytics. These tools are capable of storing information collected during an interaction and applying it to the next situation to learn from past experiences and deliver better results. The ability to embed these insights within the context of a business process is incredibly powerful to help HR anticipate turnover, identify high-potential candidates, and prompt customers with useful support content.

Now is the time for HR to act
These case studies represent only a small hint at the opportunities possible when using robotics and cognitive technologies in HR. According to the 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report data, 92 percent of respondents are expecting to have started or fully implemented some form of robotics, cognitive computing, or artificial intelligence in the next 3–5 years. But following the crowd isn’t enough. It is time for HR to take a lead position in the digital revolution and find ways to deploy these solutions to create more capacity and increase effectiveness across the enterprise. This technology can fundamentally change the future of work, and HR should help drive the transition. In our next post, we will continue to explore the role of HR in a digital workplace where humans and bots are working side by side.

In the meantime, what opportunities do you see for HR to use robotics and cognitive technologies? Do you have another example from your organization to share? Please post your comments below and join the discussion.

This blog was first published in the HR Times.

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