Oracle CEO Mark Hurd is known as a system-builder, but his decades of experience in customer-facing sales and executive roles have also given him a keen understanding of people. Operational and people skills are critical to managing Oracle — one of the world’s largest private employers — and addressing its constant need for new talent to sustain its growth.
Oracle had about 105,000 employees when Hurd joined the company eight years ago. Today, its global workforce comprises 137,000 people. Keeping so many people happy, focused, and productive is no easy feat, and it would be far harder if Oracle treated everyone the same. True to his expertise, Hurd addressed this personnel challenge by directing Oracle to deploy people- and system-driven approaches to personalize employees’ experiences with Oracle’s HR department.
Hurd has said personalization begins with listening to employees. At HCM World 2018, he pointed out that Oracle once used “huge, monolithic surveys” that forced every employee to fill out the same standard questionnaire. These days, the company uses “a much more nimble [listening] system,” which turns the small teams ultimately responsible for getting things done at the ground level into diverse small-scale focus groups.
Hurd noted that simply shifting the feedback focus to the team level and asking questions relevant to that team’s experience has helped Oracle boost its employee survey participation rate from about 62 percent to more than 90 percent. Team members are more likely to actively and productively engage with an employee feedback system that considers their team-focused day-to-day experiences, as opposed to one that sequesters them at their computers to select canned responses to predetermined questions.
Another important area of focus for Hurd was the employee onboarding experience, which Oracle streamlined through a comprehensive onboarding process. The improved process pushed favorable views of Oracle’s onboarding practices from about 30 percent of employees to 80 percent.
Effective data analytics capabilities are hugely important to large enterprises, and that’s true whether they’re analyzing financial data or employee performance. The analytics capabilities in Oracle HCM Cloud —augmented with AI and machine learning — can make a big difference for HR departments trying to align employee talents with company strategy. AI can even help HR predict which employees will excel at tasks they might not have handled before, which can decrease the significant time and financial costs required to hire experienced specialists.
At HCM World 2017, Hurd said it’s, “not necessarily the people with the best profile [who] are going to succeed at Oracle. Our ability to predict, based on the information we have... [and] why you came up with that [information]... can [help] design discrete training curriculums for specific individuals.” By using AI-driven performance analytics, Hurd said Oracle can now, “design discrete skills and training for [each] person that... can improve their score and their likelihood of success.” No matter how experienced or talented an HR department is, manually personalizing training programs for more than 100,000 employees would be a formidable challenge. However, AI-driven analytics can accomplish this task by customizing each employee’s experience.
Another AI-powered tool helping Oracle’s HR team provide individualized attention is the chatbot integrated into Oracle HCM Cloud. It can address basic informational queries and allow HR professionals to focus on more complex tasks. To keep things personal, it will also forward an employee to the relevant HR representative whenever it can’t handle something. Oracle uses chatbots in similar ways to provide applicants with information during the recruitment process. It helps to have the right support when you’re responsible for nearly 140,000 employees and expect to hire thousands more each year.
Ironically, some of the best tools for personalizing employee engagement on the enterprise scale are operated by machines. For many years, companies that grew to a massive size by utilizing automation technologies did so at the expense of employee engagement. AI can’t replace a skilled and empathetic HR professional — at least not yet — but it can create an environment in which employees feel acknowledged, accommodated, and appreciated. Mark Hurd has often said AI will create many new jobs. AI might also help the people in those new jobs feel more connected to their employers, whether those employers field a workforce of 100 or 100,000.
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