Automation of processes and recent updates to interactive technologies such as chatbots will continue to consume the more repetitive tasks of HR professionals over the next few years. While this can be a scary proposition for many, others will see this as an opportunity to focus on the reasons they embarked on a career in HR in the first place. What some forget is that automation and artificial intelligence such as machine learning isn’t an all or nothing proposition. In many cases, technologies such as machine learning can provide HR professionals with a boost that will help them realize their professional goals and deliver significant benefits to their organizations.
Machine learning programs can find the drivers of specific outcomes in the workforce, both desired and undesired. With the drivers understood, predictions can be made about performance and turnover that previously seemed almost random. Certainly, the big drivers that were previously evident in spreadsheet analysis remain, but machine learning can factor in many other factors that would overwhelm a spreadsheet and provide the next level of insight or improve the accuracy of prediction. For HR practitioners, these insights will allow them to provide line managers with an alert to someone who is at higher than average risk for a safety incident. It can let them become proactive in providing counseling to avoid turnover, absenteeism, or lower performance when the indicators point to a higher than average level of stress in an employee’s life.
These data driven insights are needed. Beyond surveys it becomes difficult to evaluate the many factors that drive the performance and engagement of a workforce. And executives are aware of it. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends study, more than half of executives today believe that their current performance management approach is not effective in driving employee engagement or high performance. They need new ideas and the best sources of these ideas should be coming from HR.
CEOs are now asking CHROs and chief people officers to build more capability around people management analytics as the human capital is being identified as the biggest competitive differentiator, irrespective of the industry. While there is significant work to be done to clean up employee data, streamline processes, and finally implement advanced applications including machine learning to take this initiative to the next level, this also presents a big opportunity for HR. HR is poised to become a true strategic arm of any organization in the next three to five years by adopting a data-driven approach.
Machine learning and software is already starting to take over many repetitive and tedious HR tasks in which humans are more likely to make errors or introduce bias. With machine learning performing many of these tasks, it frees up HR professionals to focus on strategic functions that can enhance employee engagement, productivity, and performance. So while robots will not run HR departments anytime soon, machine learning can help HR transform from a department focused on administrative tasks to one that makes strategic decisions impacting people, business performance, and organizational culture.