As HR leaders try to scale their organizations in 2020 and beyond, strategic business decisions come down to strategic people decisions.
But in order to grow your company, empower front line teams and maximize efficiency, you often need people-centered technology to help you achieve these goals.
In fact, according to a recent Gartner Report, “88% of chief HR officers say they need to invest in three or more technologies over the next two years.”
However, HR and People Operations leaders face many challenges when it comes to their day-to-day jobs and getting the resources that they need in order to execute their forward-looking initiatives. On top of having limited resources, today’s people leaders are overburdened with work and administrative tasks.
And 51% of HR leaders say, “…They didn’t have enough staff to appropriately handle the workload this year.” With a lack of budget for headcount, new technologies are positioned to support smaller HR teams to do more with less.
As a former Head of HR and the current CEO of a People Operations Platform, I’ve had direct experience with and currently work alongside HR industry leaders struggling with these types of issues. I often see HR leaders spending a great deal of time trying to get a seat at the table, achieve executive buy-in and showcase the ROI on their initiatives.
CFOs and key decision-makers frequently ask HR leaders to “show them the money” when it comes to making a case for investing in software or technology to improve the candidate, new hire and employee experience.
While a numbers-first approach may work in business, treating people like numbers has a negative impact on any organization’s employee retention and therefore ultimately impacts their bottom line. As many as 40% of employees currently feel disconnected from their place of work, leading to disengagement, a drop in productivity and shorter employee tenures. When you think about it, HR professionals are every organization’s first line of defense, and they are responsible for safeguarding their company’s most important asset: people.
While HR leaders struggle to deliver best in class employee experiences to increase retention and employee engagement, they’re having to evaluate how HR technology, AI and automation can better support them in their job and as people leaders. However, you can’t automate humanity.
The more personalized your candidate-to-employee outreach is, the more your employees feel that you and your organization cares about them. So how can HR and People Operations leaders best assess AI, automation and how it can best impact their work and improve their organization?
Strategically deploying AI in HR
In my experience working with and helping HR leaders kickstart and support employee engagement initiatives, I’ve seen three key applications of AI in HR. AI can give People Operations leaders important insights when it comes to analyzing their people data, and using that data to make actionable decisions.
For example, at this stage of development, AI can (1) make recommendations, (2) provide predictions and (3) showcase anomalies based on previous employee patterns.
So how does this work in practice? AI can help HR leaders anticipate certain people changes, whether it’s based on previous employee tenures, promotions, or shifts in roles. Once HR leaders understand their people data, they can start their recruiting efforts in advance of having an empty role, design programs to improve career paths and create career mapping.
AI can highlight patterns like how long, on average, it takes an sales rep to get promoted to account executive, or showcase that perhaps you have very few experienced engineers on your team and in the upcoming year need to invest in more education and workshops for internal employees so that they can up-level their skill sets.
One of the advantages AI gives HR leaders is that in the best of cases, it can provide better recommendations based on thousands of data points that the average HR person does not have time to analyze. When it comes to candidate outreach for example, the AI in recruiting software sifts through attributions, hundreds and thousands of resumes that fit a specific profile, and that intake of data informs their recommendations.
With recruiting specifically, HR leaders often find that they miss out on top candidates and talent because their response time wasn’t fast enough. But by automating messages or scheduling times to meet, automation does the bulk of the manual work for HR teams so that they can focus on how they will strategically position their company, do research on their candidate, and highlight parts of the organization that People Ops teams know from experience that their top talent is looking for.
AI: The human connection
There can be a downside to AI and automation however, and that can be that the more communication or messages that are automated, the less human they can feel. However, when comparing HR technology, automation and AI tools, you should look to see how customizable these tools are, and program them to feel curated for your particular employee or candidate.
Take for example the widely shared Spotify feature, “Your Top Songs.” This interactive feature is essentially a year in review, sent to millions of listeners, so the type of communication shared itself is not unique. However it’s the curation of what information is highlighted, your favorite song or artist, that makes it feel unique to you.
Perhaps you had no idea you listened to Billie Eilish 3,000 times last year, maybe that even scares you, but the reason Spotify continues to refine, iterate and offer a “Your Top Songs” feature is because it connects them to their customer base, it goes above and beyond and it shows their customers they care.
The same can be said of the way you program your messaging for your candidates, new hires and employees. You can, for example, design pre-boarding email templates for a sales team that very much reflect that specific team’s culture, automates team specific invites to go on outings to the opening night of Star Wars or whatever pop-culture event a particular team is obsessed with.
The more you inject personality into different team communications, the more you show that you’re listening, paying attention and trying to support the existing culture initiatives your team leaders are working hard to build.
When utilized correctly, AI and automation can help reduce the administrative workload HR leaders face so that they can focus on bigger, strategic initiatives. To assess what types of AI or automation could be most effective for you, it’s important to review your people data and see where you can make improvements.
From there, when you start to automate messaging or leverage AI for recruiting, it’s essential to create personalized messaging that reflects your company’s values. Once the candidate is farther down the recruiting funnel, complement the speed and efficiency AI has given you to focus on researching and creating personalized communication so your candidates and new hires feel like they see themselves reflected in your company and in its communication.
After all, AI is only one tool that can help Human Resources. The most successful Human Resources leaders make sure they maintain their human connection to their people.