In many industries, the in-demand skill sets of today did not exist a decade ago. Think natural language processing, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Leaders surveyed for the 2018 C-suite study rated investments in human capital as the number-one factor impacting organizational performance.

As the rate of change accelerates, the Cognitive Enterprise  (IBM’s vision for the next-generation business model) must prioritize human capital to succeed.

Business leaders see talent as one of the top three forces that will impact the enterprise in the next two to three years — just after market forces and technology factors. In other words, leaders are concerned that the outside talent pool won’t match future organizational needs.

All of which puts human resources (HR) front and center in fostering enterprise transformation. HR professionals have arguably never played such an essential role in business than today.

HR leaders must now view themselves—even more than in the past—as innovators shaping their organization’s transformation agenda. And they can do so with the help of new technology-driven intelligent workflows designed with talent at their core.

How data will shape HR

In the near term, AI-enabled analytics is shifting the core aspects of HR from a subjective decision-making process to one strongly informed by data. Data that supports a host of critical decisions from defining, finding and hiring the skills businesses need.

Data and AI also inform another critical area of productivity: effective onboarding and skills training for new and existing employees. As our recent research shows, 60% of business leaders struggle to keep their talent updated in critical skills. At the same time, just 11% of chief human resource officers say that their workforces are ready to the much needed data science and AI skills.

Beyond technical skills, business leaders must also cultivate people skills. Over half of the leaders we surveyed cite strong communication abilities, the ability to adapt to change, and collaborative abilities among the most critical skills for employees.

How cognitive technology will help HR leaders 

Cognitive technology works by making sense of natural language, taking in both structured and unstructured data —including written communications and data from sensors. This helps surface valuable insights for leaders and managers, augmenting human intelligence with additional decision-making capacity and insight.

For example, cognitive systems can help managers listen to employees via collaboration platforms surfacing concerns and trends in real-time giving leadership the opportunity to respond proactively. Cognitive systems can also use employee-generated data to help HR managers better understand where employees can work most effectively, productively, and happily. This enables deeper insight on performance management, culture and engagement – all vital for delivering great customer and client experience.

As industries continue to be disrupted, it is vital that HR leaders adopt data, analytics, and cognitive technologies to ensure ethical and responsible use of these technology advances.

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