At this year’s Digital Workforce Summit (DWS), Deloitte’s John Brownridge led a breakout session about the potential for AI to transform Human Resources for the benefit of enterprises, employees and HR workers.
When it comes to technological disruption, each innovation helps catapult the next one, which means technology doesn’t just grow incrementally, it evolves exponentially. For businesses, this means being nimble and ready to rethink how you work.
“The rate of change is different than it has ever been before in history,” said John Brownridge, an expert in Digital Human Capital with Deloitte. “That has implications for organizations, it has implications for productivity and it has implications for our workforce. HR sits at the center of many of these issues.”
Brownridge made his comments during a breakout session at this year’s Digital Workforce Summit (DWS) in which he presented his insights on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can transform enterprise-scale HR operations. Specifically, he highlighted how these new technologies can enhance the employee experience, which he explained ultimately benefits the company as a whole.
“What we are now beginning to understand is there's a correlation between employee experience and customer experience,” Brownridge said. “If we're not addressing employee experience, we won't be able to drive customer experience.” He went on to explain the many ways that AI-enabled HR services can give companies a competitive advantage within any industry. (Read more here about how AI will help usher in “the Age of the Employee.”)
Automation Can Make Services More Human
AI will be particularly useful in helping HR teams manage the “contingent” workforce. “Forty percent of the workforce are contingent now in the US, and in some industries like technology, it's more than 50%,” Brownridge said. “So how do we deal with almost half of our worker base not being [full-time] employees?” Automation will be invaluable in helping companies deliver 24/7 services to workforces that will increasingly be scattered around the globe and on different schedules, he said. (Click here to read more about how AI will be an indispensable tool for unifying the ascendant “no-collar workforce,” which consists of temporary, part-time and remote workers.)
Automation also frees up time for HR agents to use their uniquely human skills like empathy and creative problem solving — traits especially important in HR, which has a direct impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
“If you think about how automation works, you're automating the mundane, the repeatable, the well understood and the high volume. If you do that, then what's left? It's nuance,” Brownridge said. “There are some things that should never be pushed to automation… You don't want to miss the human nature of how you're interacting with your workers.”
Divorcing HR workers from mundane administrative tasks doesn’t only provide benefits to HR workers or employees -- it builds value for the company as a whole. “The highest value HR can provide to an organization is to develop their people, to guide their people, to help them be creative and innovative and give them the space to grow and be better to do the best work of their lives. Administration doesn't do any of that.”
HR automation has accelerated in recent years through conversational solutions such as Amelia, which can answer employee questions and assist them with independently resolving issues. Unlike a single human agent, Amelia can take on multiple HR functions (facilities, payroll, onboarding, career development, etc.) and be a one-stop hub for all HR needs. “A cognitive assistant doesn’t have those boundaries; they can operate as an HR professional, as a generalist, as a benefits person [or] as an IT person. They have knowledge throughout the organization and can access these different systems to be able to transact in these different functions and roles,” Brownridge explained. “It shows the power of [this technology] … because you can't have [HR agents] who know all that stuff.”