Artificial intelligence and HR: partnering now for better business tomorrow

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Stuart Frankel
Narrative Science
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Let’s be honest. Human resources departments rarely, if ever, are thought of as cutting edge when it comes to the use of technology. A closer look, however, shows the implementation of new technologies, including solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), in almost every aspect of the talent function.

According to a recent Towers Watson HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey, HR professionals are overhauling structure to improve quality and efficiency with 33% of the group spending significantly more on technology in the last year.

HR’s investment in new technology has also spurred the creation of new data sources. Data around employee productivity, wellness, manager effectiveness, and a host of other activities is quickly dwarfing the traditional data set that HR has traditionally been using.

That said, access to the data isn’t enough. Few HR professionals have the skills or experience to analyze all of this new information. Data analytics has never been a traditional skillset of the HR professional and, frankly, why should it?

But for a moment, forget about analytics skills and their impact on HR teams’ day-to-day tasks. Think bigger.

The rise of AI-powered technologies is enabling HR departments to leverage their data in new ways to drive transformation and success in other parts of the business.

Data analytics has never been a traditional skillset of the HR professional and, frankly, why should it?

AI-powered technologies such as predictive analytics solutions machine learning platforms, and advanced natural language generation applications are being applied to HR data to analyze and facilitate decision-making in a range of areas related to culture, team productivity, and personnel development.

Company culture and advanced analytics

Consider company culture, which has traditionally been assessed through annual, sometimes quarterly, surveys paired with anecdotal feedback gathered at performance or exit reviews.

The rise of AI-powered technologies is enabling HR departments to leverage their data in new ways.

As the fostering of a strong corporate identity and culture grow in importance given its impact on employee happiness and productivity, companies are increasing their focus on it.

This is where AI-powered solutions can come into play. Recently, eBay’s talent analytics team worked with a group of organizational development experts to measure the strength and adoption of its cultural values by applying advanced analytics—a solution that uses AI techniques.

The team analyzed a combination of internal data metrics. They then compared eBay employees’ views with external perspectives by conducting a thematic analysis and natural-language-based analysis on news articles and Glassdoor.

Advanced analytics enabled eBay’s HR team to capture a comprehensive view of their culture and address areas for improvement.

Team productivity and machine learning

Machine learning, an AI technique and method of data analysis that automatically creates analytical models, is being used by HR teams to help improve productivity across their organizations.

Advanced analytics enabled eBay’s HR team to capture a comprehensive view of their culture and address areas for improvement.

Using algorithms that iteratively learn from data patterns, machine learning surfaces hidden insights without being explicitly programmed where to search.

In Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, the researchers shared an example of an HR department partnering with IT to apply machine learning to email metadata.

Patterns in the metadata provide insights on team productivity so that HR could troubleshoot issues like reducing the number of internal meetings to improve output.

As available data related to employee behavior and communications grow, HR departments should think about how they can use emerging technologies to answer larger questions facing the organization, like “how do remote employees spend their time versus in-office employees?”

Employee coaching and natural language generation

In addition to culture and assisting with team performance, HR is typically responsible for standardizing processes related to employee coaching and managerial feedback and this part of the job is getting tougher.

In fact, according to PwC’s recent survey, nearly 60% of survey respondents reported that they would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis—a number that increased to 72% for employees under age 30.

Additionally, more than 75% of respondents believe that feedback is valuable yet less than 30% said they receive it. This is a third area in which an AI-powered solution, natural language generation, is being applied.

As available data related to employee behavior and communications grow, HR departments should think about how they can use emerging technologies to answer larger questions.

Natural language generation (NLG), which produces language as output on the basis of data input, is being used by a leading provider of investment, insurance and banking services to automate the delivery of personalized performance feedback to call centre employees.

The technology analyzes data stemming from key call center metrics—such as first call resolution, customer satisfaction, and appropriate routing of claims—from service representatives’ performance to generate personal coaching reports.

One manager is able to deliver weekly, customized reports to his entire team of 250 people, a simply impossible task without the help of technology given time and resource constraints. Employees get the feedback they crave and in a style and format approved by HR.

As new technologies disrupt every other function in the enterprise, HR is no exception.

Below is an example of a feedback report written by an NLG system, Narrative Science Quill.

Narrative Science screenshot

The new era of HR

As new technologies disrupt every other function in the enterprise, HR is no exception.

These technologies are not only changing the way in which HR approaches critical responsibilities—such as culture, performance, and development—but are improving the quality and reach of their efforts.

Combining the specialized expertise of HR teams with AI technologies creates a partnership that vaults HR into a prime strategic position within the organization.

Read the rest of our Focus on: AI & Jobs content series

About StuartFrankel

About StuartFrankel

Stuart Frankel is the CEO and a co-founder of Narrative Science. Narrative Science, a Chicago-based technology company, is the leader in advanced natural language generation for the enterprise. Stuart leads the company’s strategy and corporate vision, focusing on how customers can achieve better business outcomes by implementing artificial intelligence technologies.

Prior to Narrative Science, Stuart was President of the Performics division of DoubleClick and was a member of DoubleClick’s senior management team until the company was sold to Google. Earlier in his career, Stuart was both a practicing attorney and CPA. Stuart earned a BS from Miami University and a JD from Vanderbilt University.

Stuart was a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 and 2016 and named to Crain’s Chicago Business 2015 Tech 50 List. He is a regular contributor to industry discussion related to the future of work, technology innovation, and entrepreneurship.

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