How IBM Watson Is Transforming Human Resources

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Throughout history, when a new technology promises amazing progress in work efficiency, personal safety and happiness, the public often greets this development with trepidation. If a machine can perform a task better than humans can, the thinking goes, do we still need humans on the job?

There’s a particular irony to this anxiety in AI’s evolving transformation of HR. When IBM began developing its Watson cognitive capabilities, we identified human resources as a business function particularly well-suited to Watson. We saw it as a way for HR to transform the employee experience, bringing personalization and deep insights to managers and staff alike.

That’s because, to us, “AI” doesn’t stand for “artificial intelligence” but “augmented intelligence”: technology that supports human employees rather than taking their work away from them. And cognitive is a type of AI that goes beyond traditional machine learning because it understands, reasons and learns with experience and exposure to new data. And in a world where our employees are bombarded with information and data (let alone emails) every day, having cognitive tools to sift and make sense of it all should be good news for everyone.

While executives often say ‘People are our most important asset’, few would argue that ‘human’ capital is often the most underused resource within the enterprise space. Today, more and more organizations are seeing the correlation between excellent employee experience and the levels of engagement, productivity and innovation within the workforce. CEOs and business leaders say that intentional human capital management strategies can lead to greater competitive advantage.

So what can augmented intelligence do for managing the employee life cycle with an organization, from the moment of joining to the moment of departure?

IBM has recently released Watson Talent, a package of emerging HR solutions that introduce cognitive technology to HR, addressing the critical areas around recruitment, career coaching, talent development, workforce analytics and employee HR support.

The advantage of cognitive technology isn’t that it can do the work a human can; it’s that it can handle vast amounts of structured and unstructured data with a speed and accuracy that a human could never achieve. Watson-powered tools and APIs can help humans work much better and more efficiently. Given all the time in the world, no human could process thousands of resumes enough to find the themes and insights that might turn out the optimal candidate.

And tools built with Watson go beyond traditional machine learning, using natural-language processing that enables understanding and real human conversations.

And Watson is able to learn, so it can answer questions outside its scope and can even use sentiment analysis to detect the mood and attitude of the person posing the question. Understanding jokes and even sarcasm won’t be far behind.

These developments are giving HR Professionals a range of new reasons to embrace AI and re-imagine how HR and People Management could help managers and staff perform and flourish in the workplace. To learn more about how Watson Talent is transforming human resources, read on here.


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