Geeta L – is the Co-Founder and COO at AscentHR. She is a fellow member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and The Institute of Costs and Works Accountants of India. She stepped into the role of COO at AscentHR with over a decade of experience in Audits, Taxation, and Finance.
HR has a pivotal role to play in navigating the future of work. The out-of-the-blue pandemic has reshaped our lives and work habits. Technology is at the highest level driving the change. The digital transformation and its adoption are accelerating rapidly. The implications for organizations and HR functions are numerous and huge. Organizations have an opportunity to embrace new tools to stay competitive, resilient, and shape the workplaces of the future. At the same time, the HR function has an opportunity to focus on optimizing and realizing value in the technology investments of their organizations.
The 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Extended Reality (XR), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), autonomous vehicles, visualization tools, 3-D and 4-D printing, cloud computing, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and other technologies are maturing and are playing a significant role in how projects are planned and executed. With their own pros and cons, these technologies are helping organizations embrace innovation and bring new levels of productivity, safety, and the insights needed to improve decision making and enable the repeatability of success.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) in HR practices
A deeper integration of AI technology with HR practices is one of the biggest technology trends to watch out for in the coming days. Besides playing an important role in chatbot development, the AI technology is gradually emerging to play a greater role in the recruitment and hiring processes as well. Right from candidate sourcing, screening, assessing, interviewing, to hiring stages, AI-enabled systems can carry out these processes in greater detail.
Especially in the talent assessment process, a kind of silent and slow revolution is going on right now. AI is being deployed in the talent assessment processes. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and other related modeling techniques are being used as part of the overall analytical techniques. The use of AI in the specific area of talent assessment is evolving slowing, is in its early stages of adoption, and the legalities around it are also developing slowing.
There are AI-enabled software systems that are customizable to suit an organization’s requirements and can generate interactive conversation with a candidate through a chatbot for even the most technical positions. AI-powered skill assessment platforms can be used to test range of skills and traits – coding skills, sales skills, communication skills, personality traits, behavioral traits, and even their emotional intelligence. For instance, organizations can find quality talent by leveraging real-world simulations of some of the technical areas such as .net, android development, AWS, Azure, Big Data, C languages, cloud computing, and Java to name a few.
These tools are capable of engaging the candidates and screening them by determining whether they fit the initial set requirements before moving them to the next step. In addition to this, the tool can also show which candidates from the pool matches the open position. The tool can also stack rank the eligible candidates based on pre-set criteria that determine success in those roles. In terms of efficiency, these tools reduce time to fill jobs and increase visibility in the recruitment processes.
The ultimate objective of adopting this technology to every digital touch points has been to enable HR teams to make their talent decisions faster, smarter, and less biased. These tools help in evaluating candidates based on their merit, qualifications, and skills rather than their personal, demographic, or ethno-cultural background data. There are even real-life instances where these bias-potential personal data are distributed to different evaluating teams to introduce greater levels of transparency.
Overall, innovation in talent assessment to enhance the candidate’s hiring experience is more critical than ever today. This hiring experience also enables organizations to enhance their brand. In this way, organizations not only attracts job aspirants but also retain them as prospective customers, even if they are not selected.
- Behavioral insights and sentiment analysis
As part of the people analytics process, behavioral and sentiments analysis are emerging as a tool to hire and retain top talent to help address the challenges brought on by the pandemic. For instance, there are video-based technology platforms that enable organizations to obtain insights from a live or recorded video content (such as video-based interviews or video-based employee training sessions.)
These platforms can analyze a candidate’s or participants’ communication skills and body language and provide almost real-time insights such as their intrinsic behaviors, and their levels of motivation or attention, and even provide a consolidated engagement score.
In terms of sentiments, these tools can analyze a video interaction on a real-time basis. Based on body gestures and facial expressions, the tools can provide accurate insights into the participants’ sentiments (whether they showing positive, negative, or neutral sentiments).
Although such tools and platforms are not being adopted at scale, the technology is becoming a hot topic and gradually gaining interest among HR fraternity. A recent McKinsey report says that “By 2024, AI-generated speech will be behind more than 50% of people’s interactions with computers.”
At the moment, organizations are still finding ways to use AI effectively. This is partly because, investing in AI-based technology can affect the company’s bottom line. There are other reasons too. The current trend of conducting employee engagement survey at the end of the year is typically laborious. Even implementing the corrective measures based on the results obtained is also a time-consuming process as the entire process of “taking action” and analyzing “impact achieved” can take months together. Given this scenario, obtaining employee feedback efficiently and deriving insights on a continuous basis from different sources of touch points is crucial. That is where AI-based sentiment analysis tools find their relevance in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world.
- Extended Reality (XR) in employee training and development
The use of immersive experiences is on the rise as the VR/AR/XR technology is making deeper inroads into the corporate world of training and development. If affordable versions of VR headsets become available for mass consumption, the industrial and enterprise adoption at scale may finally become a reality.
Extended Reality (XR) is a broad term that includes Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR). While VR requires a headset to access a fully immersive, 3-Dimensional digital environment, AR is an interactive experience that is interwoven with the real world using a phone or glasses to generate computer images on top of the real objects. MR is a combination of both VR and AR technologies. All these technologies aim to converge the physical and virtual worlds.
As we are emerging from the pandemic with some restrictions still in place, organizations may not be able to carry out L&D activities in person given the current situation. Yet, organizations still need to: 1) support employees to learn and reskill; 2) help them adapt to challenges of new technologies and changes as they start returning to workplace; 3) help them gain soft skills such as communication and leadership skills. To overcome these challenges and help their employees adapt to the new world and ongoing digital transformation, some companies are adding VR as a supplement to their existing training modalities.
“V-learning (virtual learning) or VR can help business leaders upskill their employees faster, even at a time when training budgets may be shrinking and in-person training may be off the table, as people continue to observe social distancing,” according to a recent PwC study. The study found that VR learners were 4x faster to train than in the classroom, 275% more confident to apply skills learned after training than compared to their peers who took similar training through other two learning modalities – classroom training and e-learning.
We expect an increased use of immersive learning tools leveraging VR and AR. As some of the studies point out, training employees through VR mode can help them strengthen their skills. In the recent past, VR technology was used primarily by healthcare and aviation industries as the technology allowed trainees to take risks safely while working in simulated environments. These days, VR is slowly branching out into other industries and sectors such as retail, hospitality, and sales training to help employees hone their soft skills with real-world simulated tasks and scenarios.
Emerging technologies will continue to spark revolutionary changes in HR and people practices right from screening to assessing, interviewing, hiring, and retaining. These technologies are making it possible to automate HR workflows like never before and empowering organizations to focus on things that matter most.