Human Resources | February 13, 2019

Deliberate Innovation

By: Gretchen Alarcon | Group Vice President for Human Capital Management Strategy, Oracle


Artificial intelligence, digital assistants, and machine learning and are hot topics everywhere, including in HR departments. But buzz doesn’t necessarily equal benefits—the human capital management (HCM) professionals I speak to are asking important questions about these technologies. They want to know, “How can we be sure these digital innovations will help us manage talent more effectively and support our enterprise’s larger business goals?”

We’ve come up with a twofold answer. First, look at the HCM capabilities that are available today and at those that may come in the year ahead. Second, assess the specific ways these capabilities can transform core HR processes.

Machine Assist

For example, consider how AI and machine learning can function as natural tools for increasing efficiency. In 2018 Oracle introduced digital assistants powered by these technologies to help current employees answer common HR questions, such as how much vacation time they’ve accrued. Quick answers through digital assistants make employees feel they’re receiving a high degree of personal service while also freeing the HR staff to use its expertise in ways that are more impactful for the business.

Oracle is now looking at the next step: Digital assistants that don’t just respond to questions but also proactively deliver important information. For example, if someone gets shut out of a popular training class, a digital assistant may automatically find a related class and offer help in registering.

Similarly, AI and machine learning support Oracle’s latest tools for determining best-fit job candidates, which we recently introduced as part of Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud. The tools go beyond just using traditional matching technology to link talent profiles with open requisitions. As with succession management, AI analyzes the characteristics of the organization’s most successful people to identify similar individuals based on these qualities.

Oracle is now exploring how this approach might improve succession management. Often, companies see the top succession candidates as those with the longest tenure or who stand next in line. But those individuals may not always be the best choices. Perhaps a junior-level employee offers a more valuable skill set. We’re looking into how emerging technologies could help identify people with superior leadership skills, a demonstrated ability to innovate, or expertise important to a specific business unit.

AI could do this by analyzing data about all the people who have been successful in similar positions to find common professional experiences, personality traits called out in performance reviews, and academic backgrounds that would point to success in the new role. These candidates could then be placed in career development programs that ensure that they’re ready to move up when an opening occurs.

Incremental Moves

These areas show the promise of new technology for HR, but gauging its value for an individual organization requires careful analysis. First, consider the enterprise’s overall business strategy and look for ways that HR process improvements can further those goals.

Second, pick an area for piloting new technology where there’s an opportunity for a quick win. When people become comfortable with the technology, managers can then expand the assistant’s capabilities.

By thinking about these three areas—business processes, quick wins, and expanding the capabilities of assistants and other innovations—HR executives increase the odds that innovation will transform their organization.

Gretchen Alarcon is group vice president for Human Capital Management strategy at Oracle.

Group Vice President for Human Capital Management Strategy, Oracle

Gretchen Alarcon is group vice president for Oracle’s human capital management strategy, responsible for development and go-to-market initiatives that help businesses around the world modernize their HR practices through the adoption of Oracle’s HCM cloud apps. Additionally, Alarcon acts as a thought leader, highlighting trends and strategic initiatives in businesses’ transition to the cloud. With more than 20 years’ experience in product strategy, Alarcon uses her knowledge of the industry to showcase the importance of modernization through the integration of cloud apps in core HR, talent acquisition, and HR data analytics. Together with her team, she forecasts future of work movements and delivers initiatives to businesses to protect their bottom line.

Prior to Oracle, Alarcon worked at Icarian, National Semiconductor, Ford, and Silicon Graphics, where she drove the management of workforce suites and aided in the redesign of worldwide human resource functions.

Alarcon holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BA in American Studies from Stanford University.

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