By Amit Vyas, Assistant Vice President, Cognizant
Thinking about taking a vacation on a beach or a ski slope? You deserve it, but you also may be dealing with a busy work schedule and unsure about how much paid time off you’ve accumulated or the impact of critical meetings on the calendar. You could go through a tedious process of emailing and calling HR, checking your vacation balance on a portal, perusing your calendar to verify the schedule impact - but here’s another way: Pick up your smartphone and tell a chatbot about your plans. In seconds, the chatbot will have checked your vacation time, looked at your calendar for conflicts and advised you of critical schedule conflicts with recommendations. Everything checks out and it’s time to pack your bags.
Chatbots or digital-assistant-driven vacation and leave planning is just one way many employees are enjoying a better experience at work through emerging technologies. Increasingly, emerging HR technologies are helping companies drive loyalty, attract top talent, and cut costs while improving decision-making.
“We are well past the automation ‘theory’ phase, and intelligent bots are now recalibrating workflows,” says Euan Davis and Joseph Navarre in The Culture Cure for Digital: How to Fix What’s Ailing Business, a white paper from Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. “Intelligent workplaces that rapidly adapt to the needs of their employees are now giving way to sophisticated engagement programs that personalize employee growth and well-being with the opportunity to shape decision making.”
Emerging technologies are now enabling evidence-based decision-making in HR. For example, we help organizations use cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to make context-driven, unbiased decisions, such as identifying the best hire for a job or predicting the exit of high-performing employees. Now organizations have the power to devise smart approaches to prevent attrition with strategies to incentivize at-risk employees to stay.
Although most companies haven’t gotten to the point of deploying digital assistants or advanced analytics with AI/ML, they are facing a workforce that is demanding all kinds of tech-powered conveniences, and you can’t blame them. When they’re at home, most are using the latest interactive consumer gadgets and automated digital devices. When they interact with travel-reservation applications or personal banking and trading applications on their phones, they’re using these technologies. So why not at work?
Stuck in the old world
The reason is that too often employers are stuck with legacy HR systems, which means that whenever employees need help, they have to call somebody on the helpdesk, or go to an online portal to download and fill out forms. This process can be frustrating and time consuming.
Meanwhile, HR resources are bogged down with a constant stream of calls about routine administrative issues, like trying to locate the right form or finding out what jobs are available and whether employees have the right qualifications. Talking to a chatbot is easier and the technology to support it is available now. Moreover, it can free HR staff to do more meaningful and strategic tasks.
By now, it’s clear that to keep their people happy and stay competitive, companies need to start adopting these emerging HR technologies. Most organizations have a long way to go, but one trend is helping: a vast majority of employees now bring their mobile devices to work. Even workers on the “fringes” of the company – the ones who do the “heavy-lifting” on the front lines – carry smart phones and can interact with chatbots and otherwise manage their work life in a digital and mobile way.
Building a path to Digital HR
What will it take to get there? One of the first steps Cognizant recommends is to build a blueprint for what we call Digital HR, setting the stage for motivating workers to embrace change in HR platforms. We help deliver action plans that cut across business, technology, and operating models, touching all aspects of the business.
The next step, almost always, is to move HR from legacy and on-premise systems to the cloud, enabling companies to build the necessary backbone for Digital HR. This, by the way, is where we’ve found that Oracle HCM Cloud can play a valuable role, offering a wealth of leading-edge technologies, such as chatbots and analytics capabilities that come already embedded in the platform. These new technologies leverage the power of mobile devices and cloud applications allow organizations to redesign the entire user experience, including how employees interact with HR. This is an important step in a complete HR transformation.
Recently we helped a global professional services firm design an HR digital assistant – essentially a chatbot that helps employees apply for vacation and family medical leave. The chatbot applies for vacation on the employees’ behalf and integrates with external time-and-labor systems like Kronos to check that they’ve accumulated enough time.
Boosting morale and retention
Don’t ignore opportunities for driving operational excellence in HR with robotic process automation (RPA). We help companies automate HR processes with RPA and intelligent bots, reducing manual data entry and HR’s workload. HR is dominated by many complex processes – be it in recruiting, talent management or backend benefits and payroll processes. Simplifying and automating business processes helps boost staff morale, and that’s good for productivity and retention.
There’s practically no limit to how emerging technologies might change the future of work and the journey from hiring to termination. Cognizant is currently fleshing out the possibilities and testing concepts such as simulated workplaces that use augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) to onboard and train employees, and gamified fitness using wearables to promote health and fitness.
Emerging technologies can be a paradigm changer, giving you the power to redesign the whole HR experience. But to truly enable change, you may need to change your operating models as well. Too often, we’ve seen clients deploy great HR technologies but then place too many restrictions on workflows and add burdensome approval steps, adding delays downstream. In most cases, you can automate processes with smart rules and empower people in the field to make more decisions on their own. All of which will make your organization nimbler, and your people happier.
A final piece of advice: In an HR transformation, culture change can be just as important as technology change. Emerging technology can be exciting to people who love innovation and is conducive to attracting the next generation of technophiles. However, you can’t ignore legacy workers either, some of whom – shockingly enough – don’t even have mobile devices.
Cognizant can help your people embrace the kinds of changes necessary to stay relevant in a digital world. To learn more about how to harness emerging tech to transform HR, visit https://www.cognizant.com/partners/oracle.